Self Published Authors Get Ready, You’re Being Dumped

Self Published Authors Get Ready, You're Being Dumped

If you’re a self published author, get ready for some disappointing news.

Your usefulness is coming to an end. Yes, you have all worked very hard for very little return in building an empire to be exploited by multinational enterprises, but sadly, your job is almost done and it’s time now for you to be given the ‘boot’.

It all started with the Amazon’s KDP Select program that offered ‘manna from heaven‘ in exchange for granting Amazon exclusivity to your ebooks. And yes, it was very nice for a few months, until the rules were changed. Without notice of course.

You see, the problem was that self published titles were just way too popular, so their ‘weighting’ on bestseller lists had to be reduced. From 100% down to 10% of their value.

Yet even after this dramatic change, these pesky self published titles managed to claw their way to the top of bestselling lists. Not something that would have pleased the Big Five I’m sure. So more work needed to be done.

The next move came with the massive deletions of reviews on self published titles. No, not the paid reviews by registered Amazon reviewers working on Fiverr, but those nasty reviews written by pesky self published authors who actually read a book and honestly posted a review.

Clearly Amazon believed that this was just not right that authors should be allowed to review books, even though major publishers have wrought  the book review system for decades and habitually use well known authors to write book reviews. But what’s a little hypocrisy when an end needs a means?

If these measures weren’t enough to ‘kill off’ these pesky Indies, then came this new move.

‘Add to all this the unexplained changes in Amazon’s algorithms that keep the books in the KDP program from competing with publishing house titles as best-sellers.’ Source:

My understanding of this last change was to preclude self published titles from appearing alongside major published titles in the ‘Customers Also Bought’ widget on Amazon book pages. Judging by my own ebook sales, it has worked spectacularly well, as my unit sales dropped off a cliff.

So what happens after the destruction of self publishing?

To fill the new void that is going to be created by ‘killing off’ the Indies and genuine self published authors, the Big Five are offering their own self publishing services. Simon & Schuster are the latest to offer this …..

This is not self publishing. It is old fashioned vanity publishing that charges anywhere between $1,500 and $25,000 to publish a book, with little chance of success. In fact it is a very old fox in new sheep’s clothing – Author Solutions and Author House.

My advice has always been, do not walk away from them, run away! Vanity publishing has such a bad reputation, but as it has now been renamed and re-marketed as self publishing by the Big Five, everything is ok. Right? Wrong!

If you’re a self published author, the message is clear, and get ready for more bad news in the near future. All your free ebook giveaways were for nothing. You were all just way too popular for the good of the publishing industry, who are now struggling to afford their champagne lunches every day.

But boy, did you help sell millions of Kindles. Well done. But you’ve served your purpose, now pack your bags and get the hell out of publishing!

Of course, I could be completely wrong about all this.

246 thoughts on “Self Published Authors Get Ready, You’re Being Dumped”

  1. Yvonne Hertzberger

    It certainly is beginning to look like persecution by the old boys network, isn’t it. What next?

    1. Who knows Yvonne. But I think the review ‘kill’ was the most certain sign of trouble. One thing is for sure, my focus will not be on Kindle from now on. I’ll leave my books there but concentrate on marketing elsewhere.

      1. Doris M Heilmann

        I am preaching this since years… don’t put all your eggs in one basket
        Sell everywhere – worldwide to all retailers and distributors – and sell on your own website!on

  2. Yezall Strongheart

    I think you nailed it. I have made the same observations myself lately. Luckily I just signed with a publisher, an honest one, no payment upfront. They will be taking the lion’s share of the profits, but I won’t be paying for an ISBN. It’s a give and take. We’ll see.

    1. Congrats, Yezall. But I’m curious–what do you mean by an honest one, no payment up front? Oh, wait, you mean YOU didn’t have to pay the publisher? Got it. (I thought you meant the publisher didn’t pay you an advance and I couldn’t figure out how that it made it an “honest” one.)

    2. Robert F Jackson

      What of self publishers who publish their paperbacks through Amazon? They own CreateSpace and their own publishing department. Will they close these down. I use and like CreateSpace which was originally independent I believe.

  3. Micheal Rivers (@micheal_rivers)

    There has been many signs along the way of this happening. I’ve pulled two thirds of my self published titles from KDP select as of last June. The last one had a free run a couple weeks ago and hit #6 top 100 free and the post effect was quite diminished from any other free promos I ran. The only upside was the borrows, for some reason that was significantly higher. I’ve been looking into other avenues as well. Thanks Derek, great post!

  4. Steve Umstead

    Good stuff, Derek – all I can offer as advice to writers is this: stay flexible. Adapt, improvise, and overcome. The business landscape is ever-changing, and those who don’t keep up (or pine for how good it *used* to be) will be left behind. And those who put every egg they could find into the Select basket and forgot how to market elsewhere will be the first left on the side of the road as the book train moves on.


    1. True Steve. Being adaptable and flexible is the key. Amazon’s attempt to stop this attitude has failed badly, so now the shackles are off for those Indies who are prepared to experiment.

    2. Lisa McCourt Hollar

      Steve, I remember you saying way back when… don’t put your eggs all in one basket. I was one of the skeptics… I wasn’t selling elsewhere, so why not do KDP? Well I have all my books on Nook, Kobo, Smashwords and am putting them anywhere else that I find. After the initial surge… and everyone offering a free book every few days… it just wasn’t worth it. And I am happy to say that while sales in Kindle may have declined, they are rising in the other markets. There is a market out there for indie authors. We need to stop expecting Amazon to be the answer.

      1. Steve Umstead

        KDP Select had its run, and those who got in for the first couple of months (and did it right) were able to take advantage of it. Since then it’s basically collapsed as a viable “sole” outlet option. I’ll be curious to see what they plan to do now that the one year Select “trial” has now ended. Are they re-upping it for another year? Hmmm.

  5. Ashley Fontainne

    Fantastic post and unfortunately, I believe right on the nose. You know, the bloodied nose each of us are currently sporting.

    All of my novels are in the KDP program, but when each one expires out of the 90 day enrollment, I will not sign up for the program again. I will concentrate on B&N, Google Books, Goodreads, etc. for additional avenues for the electronic versions. A few months ago, I was a champion for the KDP program, but after the events you discussed above, I am no longer cheering Amazon on from the sidelines. Perhaps that is because these last few blows have knocked me out of the rink?

    I lost a few reviews during the initial crackdown and like many others, emailed Amazon to find out why. I received the same stock “blather” email response from customer service about policies, procedures, rules and regulations. None of the reviews that were removed violated any of the rules, yet they were ripped away. I attempted to converse via email and plead my case, but failed. Rather than expend much needed book marketing energy on fighting the giant, I accepted that I lost that particular skirmish and went about my business.

    Then, less than one week after my electronic sparring regarding said removal of legitimate reviews, my sales tanked. Borrows halted. Emails from Amazon touting my novels ceased (according to my friends/family/fellow authors that would let me know when they received an email suggesting my titles).

    The very hand that lifted me out of obscurity has now punched me square in the face. The big six bullies must have intimidated Amazon and now our prior promoter has turned on us all. I find this quite disheartening, since THOUSANDS of Indie ebooks have been sold during the last year. Profit that went straight into the eager coffers of Amazon.

    So, as each novel is released from KDP jail, they will be made available on other electronic platforms.

    Even the biggest giant will fall if enough ants bite.

    1. I have to tell you Ashley, I didn’t bother waiting to get out of kDP Select ‘jail’. I just published elsewhere once these factors hit. If Amazon can change their rules, so can I. Very simple. I refuse to play in a game where only one side can change the rules at a whim.

      1. Doris M Heilmann

        I am just wondering why these ten- or hundred-thousands of authors are not banding together and file a class-action lawsuit against Amazon?
        What Amazon does is clearly against the law.
        In a different case, I wrote to the CEO’s email directly and offered to sue. Boy, did they answer within hours – and the case was resolved. Big win.

        1. Robert F Jackson

          Three points:

          Are we talking about being dumped by the marketing arm of Amazon or the publishing division or both? You cannot sell in multiple places including your own website if you cannot get published, if Amazon drops your paperback where do you get published besides vanity?

          I agree ‘unfair’ is appropriate, but how are their actions illegal?

          One can create their own ebooks with programs like Calibre and then sell on their own site.

    2. What strikes me as crazy is you’d think Amazon would follow the money. If indies make money, so do they. If sales nosedive, so does their 30%. (Although that ‘sold a lot of kindles’ remark makes too much sense. ouch)

      Great post and comments everyone. I’m new to KDP and already planned to ride out my exclusive then jump on the other platforms. Will still do that due to time constraints, but this is excellent info for a newbie indie.

      thanks :)

      1. “…you’d think Amazon would follow the money.”

        Right. Where were you when Amazon first opened shop? When they ran in the red for years selling books cheaper than anyone else. After a lot of bookstores and (other merchants trying to actually make money) went out of business, and Amazon was clearly winning the book business, they ended free shipping and other incentives to snag business. You really think Amazon is going to go for the easy money instead of building a plan that somehow subverts a system to their advantage in the end? You have got to be kidding.

        The only thing you can be sure of when it comes to Amazon is that they will continuously position themselves to be the only game in town. Remember that and support Mark Coker when the time comes that Amazon feels he’s a threat.

        1. It’s interesting Sue that Mark Coker has been in negotiations with Amazon almost since he opened shop, but Amazon refuse to play ball. It is about control in my view, as on the surface it would have made life easier for Amazon in many respects.

          But I believe, as I have for a long time, that Amazon’s attitude to self publishing has everything to do with selling Kindles and nothing to do with books. Ebooks are just digital content, and by coercing self publishers to offer their ebooks for free, this further enhanced Kindle device sales.

          Yes, Amazon take a long term view to market monopolisation, and books, publishing, ebooks and self publishing are only mere tools that Amazon are using to build the Kindle platform and be competitive against the Apple iPad platform in the tablet war.

      2. I was listening to On the Media on NPR this past weekend and they were talking about the book business and publishing from various angles and it was fascinating and infuriating. There was one guy on there who specifically said that Amazon isn’t necessarily interested in the book biz per se either. It’s merely a means to an end as far as dominating markets and making sales on related items etc. I forget the specifics of his point — it’s been days — but well worth searching for the program. I can’t do his commentary justice. They also discussed J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore (?) – how she was able to take back the reins of her enormously popular series. Just thought I’d share this here.

        1. Thanks for sharing Tara. Another interesting point is the new change to copyright laws that will come into effect in January 2013. Many ‘stabled’ authors will get their publishing rights back. Another little problem for the gatekeepers!

  6. You are right on. But the bright side is, as the ocean of indie’s recognize what Amazon is up to, we can use our collective power to bring these same sales to Barnes & Noble, or where ever we find the best exposure. I see it as a revolution that has started and will not be stopped. They can use all the old models for sales, try to control the loss, but the bottom line? It will affect Amazon’s bottom line.

    Your article was well written, informative and fact filled. Thank you.

    1. I’m not sure who will be the next Indie supporter Robyn. But one thing is for sure, whoever it is will be on a winner. My money is on Smashwords right now, but we’ll see how things pan out.

      1. Steve Umstead

        My money’s strongly on Kobo.

        BN can’t seem to figure out the mechanics of a good website for consumers to shop in, Apple doesn’t seem to want to put any effort behind their book program (and if they did, they’d be the 800 pound gorilla right away with their iTunes infrastructure/credit card accounts and devices), and to respectfully disagree Derek, I think Smashwords is still headed in the wrong direction. They may be friendly to authors, but they are a disaster to the average reader who simply wants to turn on their Kindle/Nook/iPad/Kobo and shop/download/read.

        No one but other authors (may be too general, but there it is) uses Smashwords. Average readers will never ‘stoop’ to having to sideload files via USB, no sync across device capability, etc. Readers want to read, not plug stuff in. Smashwords to me is a VCR with a blinking red 12:00 and tangled tapes, while the capabilities offered by the others are DVRs.

        Kobo’s new platform, though young, is excellent, publishing time very quick, and they are *global*, not to mention are keeping up with the device market quite well (their new line of Kobo ereaders and tablets are quite the bang for the buck, and their tablets aren’t locked down to an Amazon/BN interface).


        1. I have to say Steve, that I have just discovered that when I download a book from Smashwords in epub, it automatically loads in iBooks. So, as good as ‘one click’ for me.I just wish Apple would open their iBooks platform outside of iOS. But I agree that Kobo is making the right moves.

          1. Steve Umstead

            But (and I may be wrong), that’s because you visited using the iPad/iPhone and downloaded using the device, correct? Not using a PC browser?

            The device sees it as an ePub and opens it in iBooks by default, just as it would if you received an ePub via email. But it won’t sync (again I may be wrong) unless you manually put it into iTunes and tell it to sync across devices, which is a couple extra steps, and doesn’t work for people using Kindles/Nooks, which is still the lion’s share of ereaders out there. I’m fairly certain even a Kindle Fire/Nook HD can’t visit and download a file, and certainly not the e-ink devices.

            Hey…I may be wrong… :) Love discussing this with you, one of the very few blogs I visit on a regular basis, sir!


          2. True Steve. ‘One click’ is what has made Kindle the most popular ereader. But things will change as others adapt to this mode. But Kindle also uses DRM, so the little extra effort of buying from Smashwords means that you own the ebook forever. As has been seen recently with B&N deleting download rights when your credit card expires and Amazon wiping a Norwegians woman’s Kindle, DRM ebooks are not yours. When readers understand this, things WILL change.

          3. Melinda Griffith

            As a reader, I find using Smashword with Android a real pain in the a**.I can never get it to load where I want and end up reading online.

          4. Tymber Dalton

            You can simply email the epub or pdf file to yourself and then click on the link in the email, and the iPad will ask if you want to open the file in iBooks. Simple.

            And neither Nooks nor Kindles are locked to their respective stores. You just have to buy the right format and load it via cable. Takes me all of 30 seconds or less to do.

            I find Kobo’s store lacking compared to Nook. Although Nook’s search feature sucks. I make the bulk of my sales through Kindle unfortunately. Although I don’t use the KDP. Smashwords needs to fix the meat grinder. Files that render perfectly on other devices when I convert to their native format are a bitch and a half to format so their “converter” doesn’t mangle it. And I resent Smashword’s requirement to put the published at Smashwords addendum on the copyright page. It’s advertising they aren’t paying me to do. Plus it’s extra formatting. So I skip their premium catalog and leave it out. I do my own Kindle and Nook and Kobo uploads anyway, and can reach iStore through AllRomanceEbooks/OmniBooks if I so choose.

        2. I can’t see sideloading, etc. as a big deterent to Smashwords. I am by no means a Smashwords proponent, but I am a reader first and if I want to read a book, I will find a way to get it on my e-reader. Anyone who’s gone to the expense of buying an e-reader will. Sure it can be a little confusing at times, but if I can figure it out, anyone can.

          I have a few titles with Smashwords, and use their premium channesl, but I plan to start using Kobo’s own site for my newer ones next year. I don’t see B&N as a major e-book force (and I trust them less than any of the e-distributors) so I’ll continue to just let me titles trickle there through Smashwords. Their meatgrinder used to not be able to handle my books (I write quiz books in a format that requires the use of literally thousands of page breaks, which mystified the program for over a year), but it seems to be working properly now. At least the epubs and mobis of my uploads came out looking better than Amazon’s.

          My qualm with them has always been not allowing us to list our books with active links to any other sites but Smashwords. I dislike that sort of proprietary protectionism.

  7. Melinda Griffith

    It may but I guess I’m either not enough of a techie or just need my kids to do it for me.

  8. Wow. Am I glad I followed that little voice inside me, when pondering where to begin with my book. As a complete newbie in self-publishing, my first thought was of course KDP, given my familiarity with Amazon. A bit of research brought across my attention that ‘exclusivity’ matter – an instant put off. So I published on Lulu instead, and only later went back to research further – finally deciding to add my book to Kindle sans the ‘select’ feature, for the lesser royalty. Happy happy am I that I’m not locked in to promoting/selling on that one site! Even more glad to have found your Blog, Derek! I’ll be keeping up with discussions here for sure. Thanks for the heads up. :)

  9. sydneyjanebaily

    Argh, I wrote a nice long comment, then at the bottom it told me to register and I clicked that and it led me away from the comment box and then . . . poof, gone. And now I don’t see the RSS feed that for some reason was appearing from my own blog. Anyway . . .

    Just wanted to add that I’m a newly self-published author, as of Oct. I’m trying to get to five reviews, because there are places that I can advertise with five reviews; other places need 25. However, every time I get a review on Amazon after the third I already have, they delete it. Very frustrating. All their new changes and restrictions seem, as you say, designed to kick indies to the curb.

    Also wanted you to know I clicked on your RSS feed to get your posts. I noticed you’re a WP blog. Mine is, too. A couple days ago, I installed a widget called “Follow.” It creates a friendly “Follow” button that floats in the lower right-hand corner of screen. Person clicks it, enters email, and voila, just like RSS. I found that some people still don’t know what RSS is or what the icon means, so don’t click it. Just thought I’d mention it.

    Best wishes,

  10. Amazon is going to cause two things to happen. They are creating a new market for indies and self-publishers and whoever steps in to fill the gap will be the next Amazon. They are also practicing some very questionable business policies that sooner or later are going to be legally challenged. Just as for you Derek my sales have gone to zero sales so far this month. Until November my books had been making me money every month consistently Clearly Amazon is intentionally causing financial damages to authors. This is going to come to a head soon with a class action suit that will have millions of plaintiffs seeking monetary damages. Amazon is also guilty of discriminatory business practices by the way it treats some authors one way and other authors completely differently.

    We all know where this is gonna end. The entrenched publishing world is crumbling and this latest move by Amazon is just an attempt to forestall the inevitable. Traditional publishing’s stranglehold on who gets published and who doesn’t is over. Amazon has temporarily been bought off by the big six in a last gasp attempt to forestall their doom. It may work for a while but it is gonna hurt Amazon badly in the long run for backing the dead horse in this race.

    1. All I can say Rick, is that Mark Coker must be rubbing his hands together right now. And running around Silicon Valley looking for new investors to build Smashwords into a true competitor to Kindle. All Smashwords need is ‘One Click’ purchasing for ereading devices (and a prettier site) and they’ll really be in the market. No matter what Mark Coker says about being primarily a distributor.

    2. sydneyjanebaily

      I might be naive, but why would Amazon want to shore up the big Six? Especially now that they have their own publishing arm?

      1. Amazon would shore up anyone who pays them. I suspect a behind the scenes deal was cut to weed out a lot of self-published books, there are a lot of bad ones, and forge a clear distinction between the traditional, professional publishers and the amateur, unprofessional self and indy publishers. The Big 6 may believe, erroneously, that if they maintain a position of being the establishment and reputable and the only legitimate way to publish, they can continue on as is. But their terrible treatment of authors and their biased, jaded, fickle selection process for publication has doomed them. Writers will no longer take getting jerked around for decades before some publisher’s toady decided to put their manuscript on the right desk. Those days are gone and if the Big 6 don’t change their ways they too will be gone.

    3. “..are sooner or later going to be legally challenged..” I publish from Seattle, home of Amazon, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that the legal challenge is going to be a ‘ways away and a tough slog.

      In October I contacted Karr Tuttle – one of the larger prestige law firms here in Seattle regarding the September/October technical meltdowns and issues brought up on the kdp Community Board thread “Are your sales reporting normally now?” which was kicked-off by UK author Tasha Harrison on 14 September . [The thread received 43,000 hits (yes, reRead THAT number) before Amazon gave ‘the Community’ the most BS response to the concerns voiced in the thread.] Karr Tuttle wouldn’t touch the issue. After a month of kicking it around the firm Priya Cloutier, atty in charge of intellectual property, told me that their firm (which specializes in Amazon cases) was too tangled to take one more case on. So I went to a similar large firm – specializing in class action suits – armed with the kdp Community Board thread, and all the URLs from threads like this one – nada! LOL ~ I even advertised for an attorney on my anti-kdp website which receives about 200 hits a day. It takes a lot of shoe leather (metaphorically speaking) to whip up interest in taking on Amazon in the courts.

      When I contacted Seattle Times regarding IndieAuthors they didn’t want the story regarding Amazon vs IndiePubs. Or maybe because OF that story i.e. over exposure of the issue of Amazon as a bully.

      It would take more than one author – fueled by the angst of the kdp Community board – to grab the type of attention necessary to make a legal challenge gel. Would. Love. To. See. The. Day. Not solely because I’m pissed off about the royalty revenue drop off, but because Bezos’ “technical glitches” problems [his words to the media] are in no way abating, and he admits/explains publicly: that for a company the size of Amazon, growing at the rate it IS growing, technical glitches are going to be a part of the landscape.

      I can’t justify expending marketing time on a platform fraught with disappearing buy-now buttons, ‘review sweeps’, vanishing UK sales boards, on and on. For me, it’s not as much an “Indies You’re About to be Dumped” issue as an “Amazon You’re About to be Dumped *by* Indies” issue. It will be oh so fascinating to see if their Q4 numbers are any better than their Q3 numbers – year to date.

      1. Hi Emily,
        If Amazon is stealing royalties then this is no longer just a civil matter but a criminal one. Therefore the route may be to go through the Wa. Attorney General or some federal agency. In my opinion what they are doing violates the RICO act and their actions are questionable enough to warrant a federal investigation.

        1. Dear Rick Carufel,

          You’re absolutely correct about the possibility of this being a criminal case. Washington State has just elected a new Attorney General, kicking out the incumbent, and the office is in political upheaval for a month or so. About six of the authors on the kpd Amazon Community board indicated they had filed an on-line complaint with that office. I’ll file when things settle down and the newly elected AG takes office in January.

          I hope you (all) will join me in the process.

          Emily Hill

      2. Bezos’ “technical glitches” is a great line Emily. So very typical of Amazon to answer any simple direst question with a galling platitude. I don’t know the ins and outs of what Amazon KDP have been up to this last year, but one thing is for sure and certain in my case. From the middle of last year up until October of this year my KDP sales were steady and even growing slowly month on month. Not huge volumes, but I was very happy with a couple or even a few hundred sales per month. Until.

        My November KDP sales were 6!! No not 600, SIX!

        Now either there was a technical glitch, my popularity fell off a cliff, or the world ended in 2012 as predicted.

        Another possibility exists though, which I have no way of discovering. Did I really sell only six Kindle ebooks in November 2102? Or was that just the number that was reported to me? I hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but Amazon and KPD’s ‘cone of silence’ attitude only encourages such thinking as there is no way of getting a definitive answer.

        1. Dear Derek,

          Likewise, actually. Up until October I was selling a steadily increasing number of my Ghost Stories’ sets and had surpassed 300 sales in August, looking forward to sales numbers over Halloween to cover the costs of my translations costs and design costs for two new eBooks (French Translations… CHA-ching! ;)

          As October began, and in spite of a 30-hour/week marketing effort (I’m kind of on-line addicted, what can I say) … my sales average per day had gone from 11 ebooks a day down to six!

          Frankly, I was exhausted, and a little sad (that I wasn’t the Halloween Sweetheart I had hoped to be)… Until I went to the kdp Community Board and realized there were hundreds, if not thousands, of authors in the same boat!!

          Most of the kdp complaints were impotent complaints – to the benefit of the kdp Community Board administrator – I didn’t want to whaaa! whaaa! whaaa! to HIS benefit, so I removed most of my posts and moved on to other things, but not before building an excel spreadsheet of authors’ ‘before’ and ‘after’ sales ratios of those who had disclosed their sales numbers.

          I hope to be able to share the data with the AG’s office someday …. soon!


    4. Tymber Dalton and their sister site, OmniBooks. They’re better than Smashwords, IMO, and can get you into the iSore as well.

  11. Interesting thoughts. You make a lot of great points, though I feel like some of this may be a little doomsday, but it is always good to have a back up plan.

    My book hasn’t done spectacular on Amazon so far anyway. It sure as hell hasn’t been next to any major books, though mine is very different, so I guess it doesn’t match up with anything mainstream. I’ve always liked amazon and still do mostly. I did lose like 5 reviews for some reason no on ever explained to me.

    My book is with a small publisher, Vamptasy Publishing, they been around awhile and not sure how much all this will effect them. Good thing is, they have all our books also on KOBO, and some other places. So hopefully nothing Amazon does will hurt us too badly. We just need to be ready if or when Amazon does do anything weird.

    I do have to say, the John Lockes and others of his ilk, buying reviews, using sock puppet accounts, etc sure didnt’ help anyone but the big publishers. Yes, the big boys have been juking the system for years, but its the indies who had the credibility problems with poorly edited work and such. Just when we were starting to gain traction, that scandal hit and it all went out the window.

    1. Marie Loughin

      Thanks for saying that last bit, Tim. I think a certain segment of the indie writing community shares the blame for the changes. Spamming,review rigging, and review and like chains have turned a lot of open-minded readers against indie writers. These approaches can also tarnish Amazon`s reputation. It`s possible that Amazon has slammed the door because they consider indies to be a failed experiment for their business, in the long term sense. After all, Amazon has a lot more at stake than book sales, and they count heavily on their review system.

      That said, patient indies can still find success, as others have indicated.

  12. Ruth Ann Nordin

    I suspected something was going on since I saw a drop in my sales and others’ sales. What you explained makes a lot of sense. I tend to think Smashwords has something going for it, especially since Mark Coker is always looking into how to improve things. Of course, as authors we have our own share of also doing what we can to be flexible and try new things to see what works and what doesn’t. I’m not sure where things are headed, but I think the same idea of writing your best possible book and getting more books out there will be a constant in this ever changing market.

  13. Thanks for the timely post.

    I am fairly new to self-publishing but I have bitten the bullet so to speak, and after following the discussion on Amazon antics have already uploaded my books onto other selling platforms. And after reading this informative post am very glad I’ve taken this step.

    One book I’ve had with Amazon has had such a bizzare run with pricing i really think that whoever runs Amazon’s pricing department has rocks for brains.

    I really like working with Kobo. They get the thumbs up from me on several points.

    First they are an international Selling platform and as such you can sell books in all regions under the one payment plan. So If you sell x number in Europe, x number in USA or Canada and x number in other countries they are all amalgamated into one sales figure and when the cumulative sales figure reached the set minimum figure, an author is paid. No having to reach this minimum figure on each different platform.

    The other major plus for kobo, they pay me (a New Zealand author) in NZ Dollars by direct credit into my bank account.
    Yes you read that correctly. There is no hassle with banking cheques that take 30 days to clear, or having the hassle of extracting money through Paypal. You don’t need to go through the hassle of getting an ITIN so you can publish in USA.

    Kobo have sorted all these hassle for me and once I reach the $100 threshold (regardless of which country my books are sold in) I get paid.
    If Kobo can do it why can’t all the other selling platforms?

    My money is on Kobo becoming the next big player and I sincerely hope they are following this discussion.

    1. Saoirse O'Mara

      Wow, you have to reach $100 before you get paid? Well, Amazon does have the same payout for the currencies for which they don’t offer direct deposit for me, but I only need to reach €10.- for payout for those in euros, and I get the money directly into my bank account without any hassle.

      Smashwords, I think, also has a payout threshold of only $10.-. True, I had to get an ITIN since I didn’t want to be subject to 30% tax withhold (you can publish in the USA without an ITIN, you’ll just have to pay a flat 30% tax) on my sales in the USA.

      My books are on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle (and some of them in print through CreateSpace), and I wouldn’t want to miss any of them in my mix.

      1. For authors who don’t live inside the US, Amazon has $100 US dollars threshold before they pay out. And they don’t pay out until 60 days after the end of the first month in which sales were made.

        100 UK Pounds and 100 Euros is th threshold for these currencies as well.

        Amazon pay by cheque which is a hassle as NZ banks charge hefty fees for International cheques and there is a 30 day clearance wait.

        So hence my delight with Kobo.

        I got my ITIN which incidently cost almost $NZ200 but now to get an ITIN the US Tax department is demanding non-US residents have to send them their passports(Not Certified copies certified by our Internal Affairs Department) before they’ll issue an ITIN. (The US IRS is as wacky as Amazon at changing the the rules without any apparent reason)

        Saoirse it pays to understand all the parameters involved for non-US Residents.

        1. The treatment of non-US Kindle authors is a real pain Shirley. I have the same problems here in Switzerland. I can understand the US tax laws, so that can’t be avoided. The best solution I have found is not to apply for an ITN, and just claim back the withholding tax once a year.

          But Amazon’s insistence on sending cheques is not only archaic, it is a real slap in the face and the pocket for us who live outside the US. Having to pay anything from $10 up to $25 to have a cheque cleared is just another penalty we pay. Even worse, I get the same from Amazon UK, who also send a cheque, even though I can get electronic funds transfer for Amazon France and Germany. Where of course I sell no books.

        2. Saoirse O'Mara

          Shirley, youre right, I did not take into account that NZ doesn’t share any currency with any of the Amazon websites. In that case, I can understand why Amazon doesn’t really appeal to you.

          I’m living in Germany, so I too had to deal with the IRS (and had no problems with them apart from the waiting time to get my ITIN after I sent my application form), but I guess I’m lucky that I can receive direct transfers in euros from more than one European Amazon website. My ITIN only cost me 2.50 euros for a certified copy of my passport, plus shipping of the letter to the IRS (I applied in summer).

          I haven’t yet received any cheques, though, so I still have no clue how much trouble (and fees) that will bring….

  14. I’ve had self-published books out there now for almost two years, and never went for KDP. I didn’t like that people had to use Kindle software exclusively. Still, I sell lots more books via Amazon than anywhere else. I’ve had a print book listed on Amazon for 7 years, and they treat authors terribly. It’s a $25 book, and I make less than $1 per copy after all their fees, royalties, shipping, etc. I sure wish someone could take a big chunk out of them. BTW, I just read today that B&N cancels all your books you’ve bought from them if your credit card expires.

    1. Steve Umstead

      Whoa, hang on – I don’t think the credit card issue with BN was cancel them all automatically if the card expires. I think it was someone who tried to redownload one they bought already but the original card they sued to buy it the first time had expired. Stupid business policy yes, but not devious delete-them-all on the spot. Otherwise that would have been happening thousands of times every year (I know my card has expired on BN at least once in the past two years).


      1. Don’t know about BN cancelling automatically when credit card expires, but I will probably lose access to my 90 books bought on eReader/ because I live in Canada and after the sale of Fictionwise to BN I will only be able to access books bought there if I have used a US or UK credit card. Canadian credit cards will not work. Too bad for me…90 books I bought and paid for are no longer mine to read.

        As for th books I have published on Amazon, through the Blush imprint of Elloras Cave and The Wild Rose Press, I had one book that was selling for more than $10,000.00. I was trying to get it delisted as the rights reverted to me over a year ago and I had revised the book and re-issued it through Amazon.

        My bad!

  15. Anne R. Allen

    Great post. I ran across it doing research on a similar post for my Sunday blog. I like the comments here that say Smashwords and Kobo are the places for us to go. Mark Coker has about 13 employees. Smashwords is a cottage industry and truly “indie.” He started the company because he’s an indie author himself. And Kobo has hardly even started yet. They started as nice, friendly Canadians and maybe they’ll keep that persona. I hope so.

    The Zon is just one of the Big 6 now. In fact, I sort of think the old Big 6 will have to become the Big One in order to take on Amazon. Godzilla vs. Mothra. Fun to watch, but not to be part of.

  16. Wright Forbucks

    Thanks for all this info. Short-term Indies are seeing a big drop, me included, but we can rise again. Amazon will not have a stranglehold on the market forever. We need to find and control our own customers. The Indies need to create their own Amazon is a big co. They helped us out for awhile. That was cool. Now, it’s time to do something new.

  17. Excellent post, Derek. Now the Simon and Schuster/Author Final Solutions deal looks like a move to seal the exits. I am waiting to hear about someone making a move to buy Smashwords. The Big Publishing business model has failed, but they have fixated on indies as the instrument of their destruction instead of engaging in an honest re-evaluation. Thanks for this post and for the link. :)

  18. Joleene Naylor

    I think you’re 100% right. I have been saying for some time now that the frontier land of indy publishing is becoming “civilized” so to speak and soon will be like the “wild west” – because we just can’t have “freedom” where anyone can publish anything they want… What makes me sad are when I see fellow indies cheering this on to “get rid of the crap” – because ‘crap” is subjective and the day will come when THEY will be flushed along wit the rest. I hope they’re happy then.

    1. Ruth Ann Nordin

      I couldn’t agree with you more. What these people have been crying for all along will probably bite them in the you-know-what.

  19. Thanks for all that wonderful input. I’m on Smashwords but haven’t had marvelous sales. Was thinking of putting everything on Amazon – maybe I’ll go for Kobo instead. Do they take Australian authors?

    1. In a previous comment Helen, I see that Shirley is publishing with Kobo from New Zealand, so I’m sure you can use Kobo as well. But if you are on Smashwords, your books should be available on Kobo already via their premium distribution.

      1. Helen

        Kobo is in Australlia as well as NZ. I found it just as easy as uploading onto Amazon and I’m no techie! You upload epubs on that site and you’ll work in Australian dollars.

    2. Steve Umstead

      “maybe I’ll go for Kobo instead”

      Why wouldn’t you go *everywhere*? Authors should be publishing their books wherever they possibly can. Sticking with one outlet over the other (exclusivity) is the biggest issue with of KDP Select. Publish on Amazon, BN, Kobo, iBookstore, Smashwords, Createspace, and so on. Don’t limit your books to one or the other.

      It would be a terrible feeling for an author someone to want to buy their book and they have to say no.

  20. Petula Winmill

    Speaking as a reader I will say that although I have a Smash words account I have never been able to download a book from them. I have a kindle 4. From it I can log into lots of book sites and download direct. I can get onto my smash words but not to download. I never bother even looking at smash word books now. I have downloaded from All romance , Ellora cave and plenty of others no problem. Barnes and noble won’t let me buy from them because I live in Spain. I would need a U S billing address. I double checked that yesterday because someone said they are now international.

    1. I can understand Petula. I have abandoned my Kindle because of all these restrictions and difficulties. I’m now reading on my iPad and can pick and choose which reader I use, and what store I buy from. Especially DRM free ebooks in epub format, that I can read on almost any ebook application. Kobo and Diesel are worth looking at for a good range of DRM free ebooks.

  21. All this ties into what I have been saying on my blog, albeit in a humorous fashion to disguise my disgust and yes, despair. The publishing industry forgot that the product they earn (so much) money from is not of their own creation, that they are essentially a ‘brokerage’ industry which needs customers on both sides – the reading public (demand) on one and authors (supply) on the other. Rather than nurturing the fields to encourage new robust growth, they have devoted all their compost to existing plants which can only do so much, J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer notwithstanding. The demand goes where there is good product, regardless of who supplies it. If the reading public is, in increasing numbers, migrating to books which have been self-published, this indicates that there are many good authors out there who chose not to go the traditional publishing route, probably because the process has become so difficult. Difficult not because of the competition – (in relative terms, it is as high for the emerging writers of today as it was for J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer when they started out) but because it is permeated with an attitude of contempt, bordering on the ridiculous. It is one thing to get a rejection slip – there isn’t one author who has not been on the receiving end of those – but it is another to be given to understand that your chances at getting accepted by an agent or publisher do not lie exclusively in the quality of your writing but just as much in how big a ‘platform’ you bring to the table and whether you have shown sufficient obedience and humility by following formatting requirements to the letter. Offer up a manuscript with 1.5″ margins instead of 1.25″ and you do so at your own peril! Regardless of whether you are the next Roth or Faulkner or Hemingway, how you approach the industry, whether on sufficiently bended knee or not, has become a major deciding factor in your future success. Unwilling to be put through the ringer, writers have self-published in droves. Rather than taking this as an inditement of their attitudes, the publishing industry has, instead, set their sights on limiting if not destroying this alternative publishing avenue. The snake is swallowing it’s own tail!

  22. I just published three of my book on Kobo since you first wrote this Derek. It was quite easy. I would advise everyone to do the same just to cover all the bases. I intend to leave my books on Amazon but also offer them to as many alternates sales outlets as possible.

    1. I’ve distributed all of my books via Smashwords Rick. I just checked and Kobo are showing 12 of my 14 titles already. So it was quite fast. I had a look at going directly with Kobo, but as Smashwords offer distribution to Apple, B&N, Sony, Diesel and few others it was easier for me to go with them. Being outside the US makes it difficult sometimes to deal directly with certain retailers, so it’s a good deal for me.

      1. Steve Umstead

        Derek, we’ve had this discussion before I believe (about outside the US). I go direct to iTunes, Kobo, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble; I want nothing to do with Smashwords for distributing to them. Outside the US many authors don’t have a choice, but if you have the ability to publish direct, I highly recommend it (for any/all of those four).

        If I upload a new book to Kobo or iTunes, it’s up for sale within a day or two. Smashwords needs weeks to go through the Premium catalog, then weeks more to distro. Smashwords also takes weeks to show sales (versus same day with the others), takes weeks to do updates (changing a description may take 2-3 weeks before it processes through to Kobo/iTunes, but direct it’s hours), *requires* (big pet peeve of mine) a Word doc to be uploaded instead of my painstakingly-crafted ePub/mobi, and invariably has issues with formatting once the book hits the end user (check out book descriptions on BN that came from Smashwords – one big run-on paragraph, and via Smashwords you can’t fix it).

        I just can’t imagine waiting weeks to get a book up and running (for example if an author today decides to get a book out by Christmas through Smashwords, it may or may not hit by Dec 25th, whereas direct it’ll be up by tomorrow evening) or trying to have a sale (price change or book description change via Smashwords could take weeks, so if I wanted to do a last minute weekend sale I couldn’t).

        Yes, publishing through Smashwords is “easier” than 3-4 direct efforts because it’s one click and you move on, but it’s not the best way to do it – and it’s only easy up front, not ongoing. Sometimes it takes a little extra work to do it the right way.


  23. I know this is a bit against the spirit here, but what about Create Space? Yes, it’s Amazon…and yes, they are marginalizing indies which is the main issue. But I’ve not seen it mentioned as an alternative in this discussion. After doing about three months of research, this service seemed to be by far the best going?

    1. Steve Umstead

      Hey, I mentioned CreateSpace above! :)

      I’ve used them for almost two years now, excellent service, fast shipping, quality product, reasonable price. I will continue to use them, but they are for paperback/printed copies, not ebooks (which is the crux of Derek’s post I believe).


      1. Oh no! I apologize! i have a touch of the flu today but not sure how i missed that. Create Space has an ebook extension too doesn’t it? In any case It’s nice to read a positive review of the service. :)

        1. Steve Umstead

          “Create Space has an ebook extension too doesn’t it?”

          Sort of – they allow publishing to Kindle through their dashboard, but I don’t see any reason to do that over going direct to Amazon. AFAIK they don’t publish to any other ebook outlet but Kindle (being owned by Amazon and all…)


          1. Hmm. Isn’t it a bit strange? I mean, through extended distribution the titles are available to B&N, both bricks and online. I suppose submitting multiple places is an option. Not certain how that would affect the ISBN etc.

          2. Steve Umstead

            You don’t need an ISBN to distribute ebooks direct anywhere but iBookstore, and even there you can use a free Smashwords ISBN. I’ve got 11 titles published through five different outlets and have yet to buy an ISBN.

            The Extended Distribution offered by Createspace is only paperback, not ebook. CS is a paper outlet; their Kindle distro is an afterthought.

          3. Hi Steve, I’m trying to be clear on this information. It’s true you don’t need an ISBN to distribute on KOBO or Google? I was on both sites yesterday and maybe was misunderstanding? Both asked for a #. If what you post is correct I’m going back Today.

          4. Steve Umstead

            Amazon, BN, and Kobo all do their own internal ISBN-like numbers. You do NOT need an ISBN to publish an ebook through any of those sites. With the iBookstore you do, but if you publish through Smashwords you can obtain a free ISBN which can be used for the iBookstore.

            I have not yet gone through Google Books; on my to-do list for 2013. However I’m almost positive you don’t need an ISBN, as they assign an internal one like the others above.

            Again I have yet to buy an ISBN. It’s a different world…


          5. Best news I’ve heard all day. I plan to get one eventually, but its just not in the cards for now. So back I go to give it another whirl – Thanks bunches!

          6. Google says you don’t need to have an ISBN but if you try to publish an ebook without one it won’t work. Tried it today.

    2. I have published nearly a dozen books through createspace and never had a problem, until now. I published a book with wrap-around art. They decided to cut off the back cover and move it up a quarter inch completely destroying the art. I have now been fighting with the for a month to put it back as it was and they absolutely refuse to do it unless I re-submit the cover and have a seasonal book removed from sale for 2 days. I finally decide to do it on Monday and today is Friday and the book is still unavailable. I told them earlier today if this isn’t resolved today I will be consulting with an attorney.

      1. Sorry meant Thursday, still 4 days a seasonal book is unavaiable during prime sales period because of them chopping up the cover.

        1. I have read that in order to protect *anyone* messing with the artwork (adjusting, resizing, etc)…one has to be incredibly and tediously exact in prep. Ive been an art director for 22 years but I’ve read others of a similiar vein have had problems too, even though we’ve all prepped files for printing all our professional lives. I don’t think you are alone there…especially if you had anything which pushes the boundaries of the guidelines. Or bleeds.

          1. The whole problem started when they decided that the publishers logo on the back was outside the requirements. The guidelines clearly states that a .125 bleed is required. So rather than move the logo a bit they decided to chop off the back and move it up a 1/4 inch. But in fact the logo was within the margins they state in the guidelines. They sent me a mock-up of the problem and according to Technical Services all content must be 1/4 inch from the edge of the book not 1/8 inch as stated in the guidelines. So the problem arose because their guidelines are incorrect yet they absolutely refused to address the issue unless I re-submitted a cover and basically made the book unavailable for two day, which has now stretched to 4 days because they used the same cover they had problems with in the first place instead of the revision I sent by the same name. So this morning I sent it again with a different name. All in all it looks like the book will be unavailable for a total of 6 days because they took it upon themselves to chop up my cover because it was based on their inacurate guidelines.

  24. Oops, posted this in the wrong plac first time…so repeating here.

    Don’t know about BN cancelling automatically when credit card expires, but I will probably lose access to my 90 books bought on eReader/ because I live in Canada and after the sale of Fictionwise to BN I will only be able to access books bought there if I have used a US or UK credit card. Canadian credit cards will not work. Too bad for me…90 books I bought and paid for are no longer mine to read.

    As for th books I have published on Amazon, through the Blush imprint of Elloras Cave and The Wild Rose Press, I had one book that was selling for more than $10,000.00. I was trying to get it delisted as the rights reverted to me over a year ago and I had revised the book and re-issued it through Amazon.

    My bad!

  25. Saul Tanpepper

    Looks like I’m the lone dissenter here. The rules keep changing, and they keep changing because Amazon is a business doing what businesses do. We need to stop thinking of them as Saviors of the Great Indie Movement. They are not. Indies will not die. They will not become extinct. The best indies will adapt first and the rest will follow. It’s the Big 6 (soon to be Big 5) that are the dinosaurs.

    So stop pushing the panic button. It’s not the end of the world.

    1. Nobody is looking at Amazon as the Saviors of the Great Indie Movement, just the opposite. They are destroying it.
      “I had one book that was selling for more than $10,000.00.” What does that mean? And if it’s doing so well why would you try and delist it? Your whole post makes no sense.

  26. Do you blame Amazon for making these changes? They don’t want $.99 garbage books by untalented writers to pollute the bestseller lists when everyone knows they’re only there because of the price point. That would turn Amazon into a one stop shop of bad books. They like being able to say they have millions of ebooks, because that sells Kindles, but they also want to sell decent content. And lets face it, when less than 1% of self published books meet the base standard for decent writing, pushing them on an unsuspecting public that just spent good money on a reading device is not only bad business, but unethical.

    Self published writers should be thankful they were allowed to play at all. If they don’t like the way things are, they can always go back to writing their books and querying agents and wondering why no one will publish them.

    1. The $.99 garbage books were OK when they were selling Kindles weren’t they? Your 1% assumption holds true for traditionally published books too. I have been an avid reader for 50 years and have read hundreds of bad books long before the eBook came along.

      1. Steve Umstead

        “Your 1% assumption holds true for traditionally published books too.”

        My eyes bled while trying to get through The Lost Symbol from Dan Brown.

  27. “Of course, I could be completely wrong about all this.”

    Correct. You are wrong.

  28. J. R. Tomlin (@JRTomlinAuthor)

    That’s funny. My self-published sales are up considerably this month over last month (by about 100% and last month wasn’t that bad) and I see quite a number of indie novels that are right next to Big 6 novels on the best seller lists. As a matter of fact, one of mine is. So…

    Not so much. No.

  29. I’m just catching up with all your comments. Thank you for them as it is a very worthwhile discussion. I’d just like to point out that my post refers to ebooks and Kindle in particular. Createspace, although being owned by Amazon, perform a wonderful service for POD paperbacks and extended distribution.

    However, KDP has been playing both sides and is now looking as if it is making a decision about where their bread is buttered. Remember that KDP are the ones who encouraged $0.99 ebooks, who encouraged free ebooks, who encouraged free ebook lending and who encouraged anyone who could spell their name to publish via their platform. They also encouraged a flawed review system that had no controls at all.

    No quality control and no literary intention whatsoever. KDP was and is about selling Kindles and extending its platform against Apple’s iPad.

    But it is clear now that there has been pressure applied to Amazon by the major publishers and Amazon have mud on their face. They have played both sides and are now deciding which bed they wish to lie in. Hence Indies are being given the cold shoulder as Amazon cuddle up once again with New York.

    As I said, self publishers have served their purpose, and are now unwanted by Amazon as their Kindle platform future now lies elsewhere.

    1. “But it is clear now that there has been pressure applied to Amazon by the major publishers and Amazon have mud on their face.”

      There is nothing at all clear about that. Interesting conspiracy theory, but it’s not grounded in anything. Sounds like a professional victim.

    2. J. R. Tomlin (@JRTomlinAuthor)

      KDP encouraged 99 cent books — by paying a lower royalty rate for them. That’s a funny way of encouraging something. Considering the hatefest the Big 5 (4 or however many their down to today) have with Amazon, that should be an interesting cozying up as well.

  30. Derek,
    This is an interesting article, and helps bring home the message to naive indie authors that self-publishing will never bring global success or fame.
    I have been writing for a few years – but never to earn a living or make a name for myself. I write for pleasure, and if I sell a few books along the way, then so much the better.
    If any indie author seriously thinks that they’re going to make a million overnight, then they’re just totally deluded.
    I seriously believe that the well-established publishers were never threatened by Kindle Select etc., and that they’re simply waiting for the day when the implosion comes, and everything returns to normal.
    Who knows if they are right?
    Only time will tell…

    1. You are right on all your points Luke. Self publishing will not make you rich, but it is very rewarding all the same in so many other ways.

      As far as threats are concerned though, I don’t believe self publishing poses any realistic threat to traditional publishing. What does though, is Amazon’s ‘free ebook’ campaigns via KDP Select. Over 4,000 free ebooks available each and every day on Kindle was a red rag to a bull for the Big Six. And now the bull is very angry and Amazon don’t know which way to turn. Expect more strange U turns from Amazon.

      1. Amanda Hocking became a millionaire from her .99-$2.99 eBooks. Though, it’s a far stretch for any Joe Schmo to be that lucky, I wouldn’t say that it will not make you rich. :)

        1. Outliers pop up in all fields of endeavour Jillian. One in a million that everyone wants to emulate, but isn’t this what keeps our dreams alive? :)

          1. Yes, it’s exactly what keeps them alive. I just mentioned her because she has been my inspiration to keep plugging away at writing! I’m just gonna continue doing that, and dream of course. ;)

    2. If making money selling books is your goal it can easily be done. Just research the demographics. The group to sell books to are professional women in their forties making $50k+ a year. They are single and have no children. They buy mostly sexy romance, dieting and cookbooks.
      Tell a few steamy tales of sexual encounters to illustrate your great sex part, throw in a section of low cal gourmet dishes and a list of great wines for under $50, finish off with some simple ways to keep your weight down mostly with a lot of sex and you got a winner.

      1. Hmm. Perhaps that is one demographic…there are many others. (beware pigeonholing the female buyer…noticed a backlash on twitter recently about this) I think that one of the beautiful, untapped avenues about self-publishing is the possibilities of niche marketing. Small houses have done this well for years, why not an individual who knows his or her market. Also, traditional short-run type jobs. As a photographer…these hold special interest to me.

        1. Amanda Hocking became a millionaire doing just that. She exploited the young adult/vampire niche and it paid off.

          1. Precisely. Young Adult fiction tossed with a vampires, zombies, and a dash of fairies seems to be a seller. I write Young Adult fiction, which some people to this day don’t believe that good writing is associated with this genre, but I beg to differ. It sells, and it’s fun to write!

        2. That is the demographics of who buys the most books from Amazon. If your goal is to sell books that is the group you need to write for.

          1. Careful about writing for what’s “hot” right now…it may not be hot next year…it could be 50 Shades of Gardening Tips or something.

  31. Great post. I agree on some points and disagree on others which I suppose is not that different than any other author. Having been in business myself for over 25 years, and I consider most of what Amazon has done as experimental. Some have worked and some haven’t worked so well, but they are adapting to times that are changing. It’s often difficult for authors who are super creative to look at the business side and see anything but the extremes.

    I don’t think Amazon is after Indies. I think they are a large company with a bottom line that when you look solely at the book arm consists of two parties and in some cases three. (author, publisher, reader) Yes, they want to make their consumers happy as well and while we as authors complain about certain aspects of the business, readers complain about others and mesh that with the big publishers adding in their gripes. It’s not as simple as we would like to think to implement changes that satisfy all the players. So, what do they do…they try things, they experiment, they get blasted by one or all the parties?

    I do not consider them a savior, but I do consider them instrumental in many authors getting a chance to be read that probably never would have. I don’t have exclusives. I’m pretty much wherever my books can be except for one non-fiction title or two that is in KDP intentionally. My novels are not. My best selling novel has never been in KDP and continues to perform consistently despite the ups and downs.

    I do believe that this is an industry that continues to evolve and that many will get left behind. As quality improves so does competition, and some people are just better marketers than others. On the flip side, even if you were with a big six but in the mid-list it would be probably just as difficult to get good placement and good placement is what ultimately sells books.

    If you are looking for the sky to fall you may miss the green grass underfoot and the flowers blooming. The most any of us can do are to be on top of all of this and look for the next “big” strategy and of course never stop writing.

    1. I like your ‘experimental’ tag Tammie. Just about everything to do with publishing at present falls into this category. With recent mergers and moves by traditional publishers into vanity publishing, it’s clear even the big boys are trying new ways and means. Amazon of course is both sides of the coin by being not only a huge retailer, but now also a major publisher.

      I know my post was a little theatrical, but from the changes that Amazon have made over the last 12 months, it’s clear they are not sure how self publishing Indies fit into their scheme of things. While not being a campaign against Indies, it has proved that not even Amazon know where it is all heading and are making changes ‘on the run’ so to speak.

      The changes to the ‘weighting’ of free books was sensible, but the review fiasco was very badly managed and unfair in its application. One thing is for sure though. There will be many more changes to the rules of the game in the months and years ahead.

  32. We’ll stick it to the man somehow, maybe we need to support small publishers more, not the big six, check out the writers coffee shop publishing house The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House (TWCS) who publish mostly debut authors including 50 Shades of Grey also young adult fiction and other types too. They are only 2 years old as a business and started as a group of friends publishing the books they liked on online writing communities, so similar to self publishing and with the ethics and motivation of self publishers.
    see website: or search for TWCS

  33. What I’m eager for is the competitive website that will focus exclusively on indie authors. I don’t think it’s long in coming. If self-published books are disturbing the traditional publishers this much, it means there’s a lot of indie-power out there to be harnessed and turned into a huge success for the right investors and backers. Most importantly, their success will depend on the successful selling of our books.

    1. True Kathy. There is clearly strong demand for Indie books, and ebooks in particular. I think Smashwords have a great approach and also an opportunity expand, but I really think the most pressing need is for an easier buying method.

      There are many ebook retailers who should really sell more books, but I always hear the same from ebook readers when I suggest Smashwords, Diesel or others. ‘I don’t know how to load it on my Kindle’. Read here, Nook, Sony iPad or whatever device. It is ‘once click’ buying and loading that is the real handicap and the advantage Amazon, Apple et al have.

      If this one element of buyer resistance could be overcome, I really think it could be a game changer.

  34. Kevin McLaughlin

    Ok, first off, Derek is incorrect on some of his information.

    The change was not to make indie books count for 10%. It was that FREE “sales” would only count for 10% of a full sale for purposes of moving the book up the popularity ranking. In the early months of KDP Select, freebies given away counted for a full sale, so if you have away a few thousand copies, when the book went off free it rocketed up the charts and landed on bestseller lists. This is pretty silly, if you think about it, because with so many books in Select (150k or so), the churn around the top was crazy.

    So last Spring, Amazon changed their algorithm to make free books count less. They also made price factor into the popularity ranking, which hurt some indies. A 99 cent ebook had to sell a LOT more copies than a $5.99 ebook to reach the same Amazon popularity ranking. Since popularity indexing is the default search parameter, it’s what most readers use when browsing.

    Since then, cheap books have dropped off the top hundred charts quite a lot. Some still make it there, but there are about half as many; in January, around a third of the top hundred ebooks in many genres were 99 cents. Amazon wanted to push the price up a bit, so they “encouraged” publishers to stop selling so many 99 cent books by altering the algorithm to favor somewhat higher prices.

    There are still about the same number of indie books on the bestseller lists. The only thing which has changed is that the average price is higher, and Select isn’t as good a deal as it was when it was first implemented.

    There is no doomsday scenario going on. ;)

    1. I should have been clearer I think Kevin. I was referring to KDP Select free book weighting in my post, so thank you for making the point clearly. It was a crazy situation that a free ebook counted as a full sale.

      While certainly not doomsday for Indies, the one irritation I do have with KDP is that all of these changes you have correctly outlined happened without notice. It takes a long time to track down changes Amazon make to not only their algorithms, but also their terms of use. As you say, KDP Select is certainly not as good at is was at the beginning, so hence my thought that Amazon are reducing their support for Indies.

      1. Kevin McLaughlin

        I’m not entirely convinced that KDP Select was ever really in indies’ best interest anyway, except for occasional promotion. Losing out on other growing markets seems to me to be unwise. Using Select as a tool to briefly push a book up on Amazon might make sense, but I never subscribed to the “all out” approach some writers used.

        The news was never announced, no, but that’s less a case of Amazon discriminating against indies and more a case of Amazon treating indies like they treat any other publisher. ;) Amazon has never given that sort of info out to anyone.

        In fact, indies decoded these changes before major publishers did. Before two weeks were out, people were posting solid mathematics based data on the new algorithm over on and other major indie writing sites. In other words, we had our hands on a good understanding of the new algorithm months before it filtered out to most major publishers. ;)

        1. Steve Umstead

          KDP Select was *never* in the best interest of authors, it was all about helping Amazon by locking up authors, preventing them from selling elsewhere, and increasing their market share. I never got into it (limiting yourself to one sales outlet is Bad Business 101), and it drove me nuts to see authors praising Amazon for “helping out the self-published author, look how wonderful they are to us!”

  35. I have been trying to get it through everyone’s head for ages, you keep talking and acting like Amazon is the book industry, Amazon is a book store just like B&N a kindle and a Nook are simple little gadget owned by a book store, they are not global book sellers by any means, and their devices have no other use. Google Books on the other hand has the ability to download to any internet device, if you leave your Ipad at home you can read it on your phone or laptops, or anyone else laptop by logging in, you do not need to be sucked into buying a device. that, and mark my words, what happens to every device ever put on the market? it gets upgraded once they own your ass and you device is useless.

    Google doesn’t need to sell you anything or even get advertising by people coming to your book, they get a percentage of sales, and could care less who published the book. Now who do you think will get top billing in a book search? Google’s own income or B&N? now you get where the real indie industry is heading because “publishing houses will never do an exclusive deal with Google” so they can’t blackmail Google for better or exclusive rankings. Get your books on Google Books and when the other collapses you will already have your income stream up and running.

    1. Kevin O. McLaughlin

      To be fair, one can read Kindle and Nook books on every device that you can read Google books on. I read most Kindle books on my cell phone, which also has Nook and Kobo apps. The main reason Google is still such a tiny player in this market is, ironically, that their search tools on the bookstore site are the second worst in the business (Apple being worst).

      1. Google books have a long way to go yet Kevin. As yet they don’t offer ebooks on Google Play where I live, I would imagine that it’s still only a US thing. For those who live outside the US, ebooks and ebook publishing is still quite restricted.

  36. Some very interesting points. It’s extremely encouraging to see that many here realize there are other ways to market your works.

  37. I write. I aim to be self published soon – series of short stories being copyedited by my long suffering missus and 1st Novel in a Final redraft. I have read some self pub’s novels, some suffer from typo’s and a lack decent editor, some don’t. (Mind you, anyone who has read any of the late Nigel Tranter’s wonderful books on an e-format will testify that these needed a decent copy edit – that from a big publisher)
    As I write historical fiction, my editing process needs to ensure that the fact behind what I am writing is acccurate – one of the main reason’s why after three years, and thinking I had a finished product, I have had to redraft – .
    Anyway, my point – I too write for pleasure, and want to S/p because I want people to have the opportunity to read what I write. It is my hobby, I describe myself as an amateur author. Plenty of Amateur artists and musicians have that opportunity to sell their work, without scorn being heaped on them. Be an amateur author, and many professionals will poor that scorn on you – if an agent hasn’t picked up your work, it must be bad. NO . If an agent hasn’t picked up your work, that merely means that it is a genre/style that just isn’t fashionable. Write Crime/vampires instead. Publishing is a sales business – they are not interested in anything that isn’t going to shift massively fiction wise. (Yes, an early rejection letter said that to me – never mind the content of the book. It was purely genre based).
    The other critism of SP novels I feel is justified. Pro authors have people look at and copy edit their work. Us SP authors haven’t (unless we pay for it). Therefore the SP authors needs to make sure that their work is edited, edited and edited again. Kill that critisism off. Don’t let it happen.

  38. Douglas Vance Castagna

    Great and scary article. Well, not scary, typical and very disheartening. As if the job of being a self published author isn’t
    already a herculean task, we are once again being dumped upon. One would hope that we, as a community, can hold back the tide and bring about some level of fairness in these business practices.

  39. Mm, without sounding like a smart ass from down under, there is no better time, or need, for independent authors to join together in universal solidarity – just like the writers did in the USA some years back when they held the film and TV industry hostage. But, will a majority of writers and authors have the courage? I doubt it.

    Trust me. As a social activist and human rights campaigner for decades, you need the numbers to make change. Example: send 100, 000 emails to any politician in the world and he/she will sit up and bark. The first thing he/she will think of is that those emails represent 100,000 voters who may vote against his/her junket-lifestyle. The second consideration will be the thrust of the email. So, we, writers, poets, authors, musicians and playwrights have to play their game, but on our terms.

    Thanks for listening.

  40. Great article, Derek! I had a sneaking suspicion this was happening, but I didn’t see any other indications of it, so I thought I was maybe just being paranoid. Then my reviews got wiped out, my best-selling book got hammered by a “don’t buy books by this author, buy books by these authors instead” one star review (that at least five people have marked as abusive and yet it stays) and then earnings tanked right about the same time yours did. That’s okay. Art will prevail over crap in the end. The Big Six are just sucking what they can out of the little guy until they collapse under their own weight.

    Keep up the good fight, brother!

    1. It’s tough playing a game when you don’t know the rules E.S. Even more difficult when these unknown rules change without you knowing that they were changed. I’ve already pulled all my ebooks out of Select, and gone back to publishing with retailers who may not sell as many copies for me, but at least I know their rules and they don’t change each week.

  41. I’ve already lost reviews and I’ve taken the precaution of moving to LULU and Smashwords in case I get tanked on Kindle. Good thing is, I can still be used on kindle with both of these epub services. But how do I get in through retailers?

  42. Dear Derek, thank you for making the Kindle fiasco so clear. Like most other indie authors, my sales dropped off a cliff in October, despite great reviews and good promotion. I have tried everything to bring the ranking back up, but now I realize Amazon won’t allow that. This Christmas, Amazon is for the Big Six in New York City. We indies get stuck with coal in our stockings.

    Once again, thanks. You have have a wonderful website here, and I will be following. Cheers from John in Indonesia

    1. Thanks for confirming your KDP sales also tanked in October John. As Amazon are so secretive, it’s easy to think we are the only one having a bad month. But from comments on this post it seems there a lot of KDP authors who had their sales fall dramatically in October. We can’t all have lost our popularity overnight. So what happened?

  43. clancy tucker


    Great conversations here. Thanks. Hey, would you like to be a guest on my daily blog? Always looking for interesting people … you’d be one of them. My blog goes to 18 countries and much is about indies and publishing generally.


    Clancy Tucker

  44. I wonder if any of you have heard of Calibre? It is a program that you download books to and also convert to the format of your choice depending on your ereader, this means you have the books and no-one can take them from you. LuLu forces you to only be able to download to the ereaders of their choice.
    I notice a lot of people keep mentioning B&N, well they have also been as bad as Amazon in the book fights and now they have entered the UK market recently (taking over Waterstones and introducing us to the Nook) things will probably get worse as we have only really had Amazon to rely on for lower priced books.

    1. Calibre is a great open source program CM. In all honesty, the best way to buy ebooks is DRM free from Smashwords, Kobo or Diesel and then you can change the open epub format to suit any locked device such as Kindle or Nook. The difficult part is getting ‘One Click’ Kindle and Nook buyers to understand this. As a note though, I downloaded an epub ebook from Smashwords and it opened instantly in iBooks on my iPad. Just as easy as Amazon’s one click buying! The same happens if you buy a .mobi version for Kindle.

      Hopefully readers will learn to understand that buying locked up DRM ebooks is not buying, only renting. Buying DRM free ebooks however means you own the ebook and can use it as you wish.

  45. I don’t see any cause for the huge drop in sales save one. The sales did not drop off, they are not being reported by Amazon and they are stealing our royalties.

    1. Kevin O. McLaughlin

      Actually, there are a lot of possible reasons:
      – October was the month before a presidential election, and ALL book sales ALWAYS drop off a lot in October every four years.
      – If your books are underpriced, and therefore not standing up as well in the popularity index. Amazon isn’t dumping indies; they ARE making it harder to sell tens of thousands of 99 cent books. They are actively encouraging indies to raise prices a few dollars by favoring books with a somewhat higher price tag.
      – Maybe you didn’t market as much? Or the marketing was not as effective?
      – Maybe you’ve crossed the 90-day mark since your last release? Once your book has been out 91 days, it drops off the recent releases list, and you *really* want to have another work out by around that time, even a short story, to keep your name in the recent releases. (This is “do as I say, not as I do” – I am behind on releases as well, and it shows in my recent sales!!!).
      – Maybe you just lost the benefit of your Select freebie run? It only lasts for 90 days, and then – poof! – once those days “roll off” the average sales on the popularity index, your visibility drops like a rock if you haven’t made similarly good sales since then.

      Bottom line: it is VERY EASY to check to see if Amazon is keeping royalty money. Set a book or short story to 99 cents. Buy a copy; check to see if the sale posts. Buy another one; ditto. Buy a couple more; check those. You can spend five or ten bucks and get a VERY good idea of how well sales are posting. Or you can just trust the guys who regularly spend a hundred or so dollars this way, checking sales to ensure that things are still smooth.

      They are.

      Some writers are seeing sales down; I know a stack of writers who saw record high sales on their indie books in November, a huge burst around the release of the big Kindle HD. So sales are NOT down for all indies. I’m not even sure they’re down for most indies. Don’t let your anecdotal evidence make you jump to assuming foul play. ;) The evidence does not support that theory.

      1. Kevin all of your comments are quite reasonable. However are you suggesting that Beth’s article is has no validity?

        1. Kevin O. McLaughlin

          Validity of data is based on the rigorousness of the process used to acquire the data.

          The data in the article above is flawed. It is based on the personal experience of someone who clearly LACKS much experience in the field. It fails to attempt a systematic analysis of how others are doing. It fails to seek other possible reasons for the changes noted, and jumps to a serious of conclusions completely unsupported by available data.

          The result is that the article presents a serious of opinions and guesses, none of which are supported by real data, and draws conclusions which are in error.

          I recognize that the author of the piece is scared, and worried, and freaking out a bit from changes that she is having trouble understanding and keeping up with. It’s understandable – this is a fast changing field, and you MUST stay informed. But I knew about the algorithm changes she writes about back in MAY, when they happened. I wrote about them on my blog back in May, when they happened. The review thing is much ado about nothing, UNLESS you are part of a little circle of writers all reviewing each others’ work; if you’re getting good reviews from your readers, then you have nothing to fear.

          Amazon is not drawing back from indies. Amazon doesn’t care whose books it sells; it just wants to sell books. Big publishers are still LOSING margin to indie writers, more and more as time goes on, and more indies are making a full time living writing today than were this time last year.

          I hate this sort of fear-mongering. I don’t believe writers should rely on Amazon for sales (get your work on other sites too!). And I never believed Amazon was some benign entity out to help writers. Amazon is out to help Amazon. You should be out to help you. When your interests and Amazon’s intersect, you do business. And as Amazon changes things, you adapt and move on.

          Or you fail.

          1. …Or you rant on your Blog.

            I appreciate the depth of your response. I’ll also check out your Blog in a moment.

            You wrote, “…and more indies are making a full time living writing today than were this time last year.”

            It seems to me, given the continuously increasing number of authors publishing independently (at least we know the number of books published increase year over year), the relentless pressure to compete on price (free or 99 cent eBooks), the struggling economy, and other factors, that it would be much harder for an independent writer to support themselves from publishing books.

            Actually you wrote “writing”, so I guess you are including all manner of ways a writer can generate income. Even then I would assume writers would find it more difficult today to earn a living writing.

            Do you have an article or any additional information I can reference to support the statement? Thanks.

  46. I would hate to believe that is true Rick. But with Amazon’s infamous ‘Cone of Silence’ attitude, it is impossible to know. If it were the case though, even by the now famous ‘technical glitch’ that would change the debate completely.

  47. Jerrold Mundis

    “Simon & Schuster are the latest to offer this …..
    This is not self publishing. It is old fashioned vanity publishing that charges anywhere between $1,500 and $25,000 to publish a book, with little chance of success.”

    Actually, that is precisely what most self-publishing is – good old-fashioned vanity publishing. It’s just that now it can be done by anyone for little to no cost. Most self-published books are no better, and often much worse (since they are rarely even copyedited or proofread, to say nothing nothing of the quality of the writing) than those vanity press books of old. Simon & Schuster, in an utterly cynical and exploitative move, is simply trying to extract some revenue from the surging mass of self-publisers.

    Are all self-published books junk? No, not at all. And genuine writers, talented, increasingly professional, are emerging from those ranks, some of whom couldn’t before have been able to break into traditional publishing, and others who could have but are electing not to. And their ranks will probably increase, and self-publishing will probably evolve (and more probably is doing so already) into more or less two tiers, one, the much smaller, a source of professional quality work and even literary and artistic merit, the other and vastly larger a swamp of little or no more merit or interest than were the were vanity-published books of old.

    Other than the disintermediation of traditional publishers – which is no small thing! – all that is happened here, so far as self-publishing is concerned, is that the costs and physical storage barriers to vanity publishing have been removed and a floodwater of poor to bad books and other written works released.

    Developments going forward will not be the death of self-publishing. What they will do, though, is begin to exert some pressure toward quality in the mass of self-published books.

    (As an aside, I am happily self-publishing myself – now about halfway through the process of getting those books that are appropriate from among my out-of-print backlist titles up as eBooks. After I’ve completed that process, I’ll set to new work again, and plan on self-publishing that, too.)

  48. And how much money are the big six paying you for your “okay guys, pack it in and give up” article Frank?

    These problems seem limited to amazon. If they do indeed decide to outright boot inie authors well then won’t B&N just eat that up? Won’t Smashwords just eat that up?

    Allromance books and the dozens of other sites will love it as well.

    Know why? Indie books are very affordable I can buy a half dozen of them for what some idiot ponied up for a copy of 50 shades of garbage.

    Also people in this economy have had it up to here with the “big guy” it gets out amazon caved to the FAILING big six and cut the little guy, there will be hell to pay and the underhanded strategies your pointing to could set up a class action suit the likes of which we haven’t seen in quite some time.

    No, Frank, you’re full of crap. This theory is as phony as all of the paid reviews the publishers stick on their books.

    I am an amazon indie author who has seen their sales increase month over month for 9 straight months. The issue is the select program which I have never enrolled in. The idiots giving it away for free are destroying their own sales. Why the hell would I buy a book from you if you’ll just give me stuff?

    Regardless the major publishers are the ones in fear of the self published authors, not amazon.

    Now run along now, I think Penguin needs their butt kissed. Pucker up, moron.

  49. Actually, Mike K., KDP Select free giveaways boosted my sales into the stratosphere and made me a bestseller. 50K+ books sold later, I don’t think I’m an idiot.

    I do agree, however, that the originating post is a bunch of nonsense.

  50. Debra Holland

    You are wrong. Perhaps not completely, but still wrong.

    Part of the knowledge of self-published sales patterns comes from longevity. Last year, my great books sales started a downward slide from after Labor Day until Christmas. Many people would still envy me my (pre Christmas) December sales figures, but for me, they were way down. With rare exceptions, almost everyone in the self-publishing community said the same thing was happening for their sales. AND people who’d self-published the year before (2010) were quick to reassure us that it had happened to them in that season previously and to wait for the Christmas wave. They were right. Christmas Day my sales popped up and were great through May and ok over the summer.

    Therefore, I expected to have my sales slide during this season, and that’s what has happened. Again, in comparison to many, my sales are still good, just steadily declining. However, I’m shrugging my shoulders and focusing on getting the next book out. I know the Christmas sales will pop things up again. Having a new novella will pop sales up again.

    If you’re going to be a self-published author, you need to understand that your book or books will cycle up and down. Sometimes you’ll know why, and sometimes you won’t. Most of the time, you have no or little control over it, although you can waste a ton of time and money trying to change that. Sometime that might even work. Most of the time it won’t, at least not enough to make a difference for more than a few days.

    Instead of running around, wasting time and energy calling, “The sky is falling,” write your next book. You have the most control over your own career by continuously publishing good books. Don’t worry about what Amazon is (hypothetically) going to do because you have little or no control about that and why make up fearful fantasies about the future. Write your books. Make wise decisions about your self-published income so you are in a better financial position for your future regardless of what happens.

    1. I agree with you wholeheartedly Debra. While I’m always prepared to be proved wrong, I’m very happy to be corrected by your positive attitude, which I must say one needs to have if you are a self published author. In my defence though, I do think that an over reliance on KDP by many authors has been unhealthy for self publishing as a whole, and hopefully my post raised issues that need to be considered. Changes will always occur, but for those signed to exclusivity it is impossible to retain the flexibility and independence that self publishers need and should value.

  51. I wonder if, as a community, we are not talking past each other to some extent.

    There are at least two main issues at play here (a) whether or not one’s sales soared, or dropped [in spite of a ] vibrant marketing campaign and verifiable analytics (TweetReach, etc) and; (b) has Amazon done all it can within its resources to maintain a mainframe/platform that allows all publishers (indies and trads) a seamless, ‘glitch-free’ on-line storefront.

    From my own experience of ‘test-buying’ my eBooks with the help of friends – I cannot point to ‘skimming’ by Amazon, but I acknowledge that this possibility is a real concern of hundreds (thousands?) of authors.

    My piss-off with kdp Amazon is over the Bezos-acknowledged ‘technical glitches’ (The Seattle Times) that screw up sales/reporting and waste one’s time/resources, including: (1) the UK sales reporting screens vanishing; (2) the disappearance of the buy-now buttons in November (3) the late arriving September sales statements; (4) the failure to ‘kick-in’ on author’s designated kdp ‘Free Days’ [in late October]; and (5) don’t get me started on the reach-back and removal of hundreds (thousands?) of book reviews.

    Take issue (4) – Say you are celebrating a Book Release — You’ve set up a ‘Free Day’ within your kdp Select options, you’ve broadcast the ‘Free Day’ throughout your social media platforms, sent out eNews releases, informed your Goodreads’ friends, Notice is on your author’s website, yadda, yadda – but ‘lo and behold kdp Amazon technical glitches cause a failure in making your eBook free. Now you’re scrambling around while fans, friends et al are cussing you out because you said “Free!” and the eBook is NOT free. How many times can one get the same customer to return to a broken buy-now button? In the case of broken ‘Free Day!’ buttons the authors took the heat, not Amazon.

    I can say with confidence that my stumbling Amazon sales success of late is because I am intentionally not loading quarters into a broken pop machine…Bezos can keep his ‘technical glitches’.

  52. I wonder if Amazon could discuss with authors what the concerns are behind certain actions. I wonder if AMZN is worried about revenues to support the platform and wants to support higher priced books. If so – should independents raise prices to get back on the “also read” lists (if in fact they’ve changed practice on this)?

    I can understand this from a business standpoint – if readers fill up their e-readers with free or $0.99 books that doesn’t generate much revenue for Amazon. Guidance to indy authors on “what we’re” doing wrong – and what we should do to make it better – would be appreciated.

    1. Kevin O. McLaughlin

      Not only possible, but has occurred on multiple occasions. There’s a class action suit against Harlequin alleging foul play with royalties right now, in fact. Also multiple incidences of writers winning suits against agencies for embezzling royalties (writers should in general ensure their contracts split royalties so checks are sent directly to the writer and agent for their respective shares, not to the agent first who then sends the writer’s share to the writer).

    2. Since it would seem the Government’s policy for dealing with corrupt corporations is to fine them 10% of what they stole and nobody goes to jail. Where’s the deterrent for corporate theft when the government let’s them keep 90% of what they steal? Given that stealing raises profits and only cost 10% what do you think corporate policy would be?

  53. One suspicious thing I’ve noticed about my self-published memoir, “Dodging Machetes,” is that Amazon has been taking some of my legit five-star reader reviews off my book page. Of course they did not notify me and of course I complained—to the email address given to me by Amazon Author Central. Twice. And they apparently are not even going to reply to me. Another unfair tactic is that they limit my Review section to 1750 characters, yet I see plenty of other books, even some self-published ones, with 8000-character Review sections. Meanwhile I’m self-published via CreateSpace, Amazon’s own self-publishing service.

    I used to think they’d give me a fair shake. No longer.

    1. There have been a lot of changes to KDP Will, and removing 5 star reviews has been happening for some time now. It doesn’t seem fair at all, but unfortunately we are caught up in a publishing war between Amazon and others and we are just the small fry. So expect more surprises along the way. Especially from Amazon, who can act very quickly and aggressively.

  54. It’s alright writing an article like this – but to what purpose. You seem to think Indie authors have a choice. They don’t. The big boy publishers aren’t interested, unless you were a celebrity A-lister. And as for the so called vanity publishers, I’ve been there, seen that, got the Tee shirt. I won’t go near them even again. I paid to have my novels published. They never sold. I would love to be a best seller, earning millions in royalties, Spielberg knocking on my door, demanding I sell him the film rights. I’m a realist and I know it will never happen. Regrettably the big boys have nothing to fear from me, or many other Indie authors. I, and presumably many others, are happy enough to do our writing, self publish, and sell a few, and hopefully our readers like what we do. So, unless you want to give me another option, I’ll carry on as I am.
    John Holt

    1. Actually, I think there are real opportunities in self publishing now John. In my mind the problem has been the misguided reliance on Amazon Kindle by self published authors and although written tongue in cheek, my post was really about giving Kindle the boot. Amazon have treated self published authors like sh*t. Pardon the expression. But they used Indies to build their Kindle platform on freebies and are now dumping Indies as they get back into bed with the Big 6 (now 5).

      There are many other retailers and with readers voting by buying Indie books in their millions, there is an acceptance that can be exploited now. Readers like Indies, Amazon seemingly don’t anymore. So, it’s time to support Smashwords, Kobo and other independent retailers and distributors and send our potential readers to them and stop giving Amazon an easy ride.

      Personally, I am now listing Amazon last on my website in my list or retailers. About where they belong.

      1. Kevin O. McLaughlin

        Heh. Go ask the big five (soon to be four, then I would bet big three will be next) if they think Amazon is “getting in bed with them”. More like kicking them out of bed. ;) Amazon imprints are deliberately forcing advances to remain high. Too high, really. Unsustainable high, for the big publishers. Of course, Amazon can afford to lose tens of millions a year keeping the bids for high profile books up at a level big publishers can no longer afford.

        That’s the next phase of the plan, you see: bankrupting large publishers. Of course, Amazon couldn’t do it without the publishers playing along… Today, small is better. Faster. More nimble. Easier to build brands around. Bigger is NOT better when it comes to publishing, because the old economies of scale are out the window. By trying to beat Amazon through mergers, those publishers are simply sealing their own fates.

  55. I did a five day freebie promo early on and had 1500 downloads. I didn’t get one review out of those. I complained on author central and two people shamed me for wanting reviews. One was an Amazon person. I got out of Select, but recently returned. Was it wrong of me to question this?

    1. Quite honestly Judith, I avoid Kindle forums like the plague. I belong to a couple of great Facebook writers groups that are extremely helpful and supportive, but Kindle forums seem to me to be over populated with those bent on spite. With regard to free downloads and reviews though, those days are over. There is no real benefit anymore in giving away your book on KDP.

    2. Judith
      The Amazon forums are populated by trolls who lie in wait for people like you to pounce on. More than likely you will get a review or two now that are one-star personal attacks. Amazon absolutely refuses to either clean up those forums or close them completely. Those forums are the source of most one star reviews and complaints that get five star reviews removed.

  56. I think the last thing we, as indie writers, need right now is more wanton speculation and fear-mongering among ourselves. The powers that be do that enough themselves without our own contributions.

    Sure, KDPS isn’t what it used to be. Hell, I’m more than likely dropping most of my titles out of it in January, leaving just the loss leaders to see how things work out. But since I joined KDPS, my sales have quite literally doubled. Since I write in a very niche category, and I am perfectly happy with that level of sales, I call that a success.

    There’s too much speculating, too much fear-mongering, too many squabbles and not nearly enough writing. If we as independent writers would concentrate more on the craft and less on the conspiracies, we’d all be a lot better off.

    1. I agree with you Rich. I also did very well out of KDPS also, but the wonder days are over. This I think is a good thing too, as the over reliance on Kindle as the only self publishing platform was flawed by the exclusivity clause. It is time for self publishers to spread their wings and find other platforms and be Indies and not just Kindle fodder.

    2. I agree with Rich. Fear-mongering only serves to freeze victims with fear. Do not be afraid, but rather take control of your own success. If you think you need Amazon to sell your book you haven’t thought hard enough. Let the people spread the word for you. Let Kony2012, Justin Beiber, and (…you fill in the blank with your favourite internet success story here) be your inspiration. They didn’t spread their work through Amazon but their work is well known.

    3. It’s not fear mongering when people go to their book on Amazon and find that all the review for their book, which drives sales, are gone.

      I have had people email mail me with stories of 25 reviews, all there were, removed from a single book. I have also had a gentleman who had, since the start of Amazon, publish hundreds of reviews made over more than 10 years all deleted with no explaination.

      In both cases Amazon absolutely refused to give an answer as to why. They just sent their canned response and when pressed for a valid answer threatened to ban the questioner from Amazon if they pressed the issue.

      I see no fear mongering here. I see a serious abuse of the peoplewho make them money, by Amazon.

      It’s not conspiracy theory, it’s Amazon treating the people who got them started like shit.

      When people work their ass off trying to make a living as a writer and the sales venue deliberately sabotages them by removing the reviews that help sell books it’s a serious issue that will eventually end in a massive lawsuit. As soon as they get too cocky and pull this shit on someone who is either a best seller or wealthy enough to sue them TSWHTF.

  57. Proprietary Protectionism, wow! You nailed it Rich. That’s exactly what has been motivating Amazon. And it accounts for their evasiveness and secretiveness too.

  58. Jerrold Mundis

    I can understand you’re being disappointed, but what you complain about eludes me. It’s the downloaders – very few of whom will actually read your book, their primary interest being in free book rather than actually in books – who didn’t review your book, not Amazon.

    And you’re the one who offered them a free a book. They didn’t come to you asking for one. They made no contract, no agreement with you to review. Yes, it would be nice if some of them had, but none was under any obligation to do so.

    Additionally, there might even be a hidden blessing in this. Freebie downloaders often download indiscriminately, picking up books in genres or fields outside of what they like or are accustomed to, and, when they do review, end up leaving a disproportionately large number of low-star and negative opinions.

    Best solution? Inure yourself to reviews or lack of them, except as part of marketing strategy, write more books, and better books, market and promote in every effective way you can find.

    Writing is an art, or a craft; self-publishing is a business.

  59. David Chester

    Does this apply only to fictional books? I have in mind a technical book that hopefully will soon be published, possibly as a self-published one. What are the chances that the vital and essential subject I am writing about will not get sufficient coverage?

    1. Hi David. As far as I know, Amazon’s new policies apply to all books, no matter the genre. In particular, if you received reviews for your new book from authors publishing in the same topic/genre, the reviews could well be deleted under Amazon’s new rules.

  60. Does Amazon tell the author when they delete reviews? Or how do we find it, like if someone writes a review that we don’t know. And seems like if even someone we did know wrote a review and it got deleted, they would have had to keep checking

    Thx for helpful article and discussion

    1. No Sheila, Amazon never tell anyone anything. Not even when they remove reviews from your book. Even if you ask politely as to why, you always get the same cold ‘copy and paste’ reply. And if you push it, they threaten you with removal. Amazon’s heavy handed tactics have made me change course with my book distribution. While it pays for me to have my books available on Amazon for Kindle owners, it is now far from my preferred retailer. I don’t like to be threatened with removal, simply for asking questions that directly affect sales of my books.

      In my dealings with Smashwords, Kobo, Sony and Ganxy however, I have found excellent support as well as open and polite communication channels that make it a pleasure to deal with them.

  61. Does Amazon let author know when they delete a review? Or how else do we know?

    Thx for helpful article and discussion

    1. Hi Sheila
      Not only will Amazon not notify if a review is removed but when asked for the reason they refuse to give a specific answer. If pressed they will threaten to rescind your privilege to either post reviews or sell books.
      Amazon views any content added to their website as their property and therefore have no obligation to explain what they do with their property to anyone.

  62. Almost conspiratorial,
    They will view it as their ballpark and their ball, so their rules.

  63. Hi Clancy. The content of my blog is open for discussion and backlinking, but if you wish to quote directly from individual comments on this post, other than my own, I would think it would be polite to contact the commenter. I notice Rick has given his approval, and I think many others would agree as well.

    1. Hi Derek,
      Didn’t mean to step on your toes. I have some info on my blog that you’ve read and know it may be of use to Clancy.
      Happy Holidays, my friend. :0)

  64. I recently published a book on amazon for the kindle and enrolled in the KDP programme, are you saying this is bad? I was confused by the process to be honest and didn’t find the guidance very helpful. Not sure what to do about it when the 90 days are up.

    1. You enrolled in the KDP Select program, Sam, which is different from KDP,(which is just basic publishing on Amazon). KDP Select just allows you to have free promotional days and puts your book in the lending library for Prime, which can be more profitable than actually selling copies of the book.

      Don’t let yourself be scared by the doom-sayers. It can be a good thing for you and your work. Sure the exclusivity can be a bummer at times, but there’s a much better chance of being seen by a paying customer on Amazon than on any other website out there. I’ve literally doubled my sales over last year by having some of my books in KDP Select. I’ve had one actual sale on Smashwords, and only a slight dribble from their “premium” channels.

      1. There are no doom-sayers Sam, just people who have real problems caused by the shabby way Amazon treats authors who are not published by the Big 6 publishing houses.

        What does “Literally doubled my sales” mean? Going from selling one book a month to selling two is literally doubling sales. So it’s a meaningless remark. Now if you go from selling 1000 books to 2000 books that’s something but I’m sure that’s not what happened is it?

  65. I can say Sam, that both Rich and Rick are correct. It depends on a number of factors and how you use KDPS. My experience was the same as Rich in the first 10 months of selling my ebooks exclusively with Amazon. But then in May and early October of this year, Amazon made changes to their program that I felt were unfair. From December through to September of this year my sales went from 10 or 20 book sales per month, up to 200 to 300. So it was effective. But after May, sales steadied due to changes in KDPS free ebook values. Then in early October, my sales fell off a cliff. This was at about the time Amazon changed thier review policies and I also believe they changed their algorithms which has effected indie sales. It was at this point I decided to leave KDPS and go back to other retailers.

  66. Watch Alert!

    Those of you who have watched Derek’s thread on this blog topic are aware that I built a “Kindlegate.webstarts” page last month, with a $2.99 membership for those who wanted access to ‘Amazon Alternatives’. Between 12 November and 12 December 3300 visitors have viewed the site.

    One Alan Kipust, VP – Kindle Amazon Operations – was my most recent subscriber to the Members Only Page. Yes, Alan paid the price of admission, and received the log in code. He then requested a refund after looking around my “Alternatives to Amazon” site. If he would have been more wily, and let the $2.99 ‘ride’ I would not have had raised suspicions to Google “Alan Kipust”.

    Don’t think your angst is being tracked by Kindle Amazon??

    Think again.


    1. Thank you for that information Emily. So it’s clear that Amazon are snooping on their detractors. I hope you didn’t refund his $2.99! But his request for a refund says a lot about Amazon’s ethics in my view. He got the information he was after, and then has the balls to ask for a refund?

      I can’t be sure how far or deep Amazon and KDP snoop, but I can say this. In the last month, my sales on KDP are fewer than the reviews I have received. From about the time I started posting less than complimentary remarks about Amazon KDP. How can one receive more reviews than sales? I’ll let you figure that one out! :)

  67. Make no mistake this conversation is being followed by not only Amazon. After my earlier comment about Kobo their head honcho Mark Levere contacted me and thanked me about my kind words about Kobo.

    So this conversation is being followed and not just by Amazon.

    1. That’s great to hear Shirley. I am really hoping that Kobo become a force in ebook delivery as quite honestly, Amazon could really do with viable competitors, otherwise I fear for the future of ebooks. While Smashwords do a fine job as a distributor, the ebook market does desperately need new and fresh ideas from other online retailers.

      1. I was actually blown away to receive that email from Mark Levere. We had a good conversation and they are working on ways to track the free downloads authors use as promos etc. He was very open to any suggestions so if you do have bright ideas he’d be prepared to listen.

    2. I recently published 3 of my books on Kobo. Instead of them publishing in 24-48 hours as they say the books stayed in publishing limbo for 11 days and only got published when I contacted them to complain about it.

        1. I also notice none of the books appear in any of their list such as new releases, good reads under $4.99 or short reads all categories of which at least two of the books qualify. I have not read completely through the Kobo site but wonder how books get on those lists. Is this another case of paid endorsements? only those who pay get on the lists where their books should show up?

  68. My sales dropped during October. They have since picked up. I haven’t noticed that I lost any reviews from Amazon, but maybe I did. Not a lot, if any, so I haven’t given it much attention or thought.

    Amazon is slowly revealing itself to be the wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is, quite possibly, the ANTICHRIST himself! I loathe the company, and yet there is no other, and no combination of companies, that is selling as many books for me as they are. I’ll stick with “The Beast” a little longer and hope other viable alternatives open up. I’d love to drop them!

    For now, I’ll just write myself sick and hope that I have so much content to sell by the time I’m 60, that it doesn’t matter who is selling my books, at what price, and at what commission. I’ll be the winner regardless.

    Best to everyone,


    1. I think we all know Amazon have become a 2,000 lb gorilla Mike, but they are the biggest retailer of books and ebooks. So it’s a no brainer to have one’s book available there. However, recent actions by Amazon will hopefully push self published authors to not only look elsewhere to sell their books, but also to start encouraging readers to look elsewhere as well.

      For ebook readers outside the US there is a very good reason to look at buying ebooks from other retailers, who do not charge an extra dollar just to deliver an ebook. Amazon’s international delivery charge is nothing more than a rip off, which no other retailer I know of needs to charge.

      Nothing will change while self published authors think that Amazon is the only retailer. I know many say that other retailers do not deliver sales, but this is probably because all their book marketing is directed and linked back to Amazon. To encourage readers to look at other retailers, self publishers need to play their part and change the way they market their books.

      1. Actually, Amazon charges $2 more than I put my books for sale for – for the overseas market. I’m in Thailand, so every book I see is $2 more than the author listed. A shite deal for sure.

        I forgot to mention – there is still good reason to drop the price of the first book in a series to “free” – to get more readers, whether or not they leave a review on Amazon. I have my website all through my books, so hopefully readers see that and come over and have a look. Some will buy my new books there, when they realize they can get them cheaper and well before anyone at Amazon can. Amazon gets my new books last.

        Just found your site here, glad I did. Followed you on twitter for a while, but I’m rarely there.



        1. $2.00 for wireless delivery is a bit rich Mike. I feel lucky only being hit for $1.00 by Kindle here in Switzerland. Not that I pay their rip off anymore, as I can usually find books I want on other retailers.

          1. Well, I learned something. I thought it was $2 added on worldwide. Either way, it’s ridiculous as it cost them less than 1c to send a book.

  69. Check your prices, people!

    I just noticed that my ePub Coaching guide which has always sold for $2.99 (61 pages) has been price-adjusted by Amazon to $4.99 this morning – which is totally out of the correct range. Where IS the extra royalty going, me wonders??

    Life is too short to go into all the implications for THIS “technical glitch” [Bezos to The Seattle Times last month].

  70. Stephen C. Ormsby

    So is being attached to a small indie publisher give you a better chance than going it alone?

    1. Kevin O. McLaughlin

      Probably not. In most cases, small presses do nothing for you (today) that you can’t do yourself. The exceptions are the few small presses which either a) get your books into B&N chain stores, b) do significant marketing, or both.

      The former is rare. The latter is almost as rare. You can tell if a small press is doing serious marketing of their books (in a successful manner) by checking Kindle ranks on their releases over the last six months. If the rankings are all over the place, they’re doing diddly. If most of the books are ranked 100k or better, and some books are in the top 20k, then they’re probably doing some decent marketing and might be worth signing with.

      But in general? Most small presses are in precisely the same boat as any indie writer, and can’t get books anywhere that you as a writer can’t also get – nor do they get any special advantages that you as an indie writer won’t get.

    2. I am a small Indie publisher and the advantages of using my services is that you get professional quality book formatting and layout, cover design that with spine and backcover for POD paperbacks and Ebook publication. You also get the advantage of using someone who has been through the process of publishing POD and ebooks many times and know the process. So you get not only services to make you book a professional quality product but you don’t have to go through the aggravation of learning how to do it. is particularly hard to please with submissions and many would-be self-publishers have been stopped there. Writers pay to have their manuscripts edited and proofed, they pay for a front cover, and should spend a few hundred more for a professional formatting and layout for their books. I, unlike many small publishers do no contracts and get no royalties. I work for a flat rate and when we’re done the author gets all the profits from sales. Do not try to take advantage of writers I try to help them.

  71. clancy tucker

    Thank you to Derek and Rick. Appreciate your offer … and this conversation.


  72. Sadly this article shows the lengths major publishers and will go to strengthen their monopoly on publishing. It is no secret that for more than 20 years mass market publishers have been squeezing the middle out of publishing. Their overriding desire is the bottom line. They’ll publish crap (poorly written material like Fifty Shades of Grey) if it will make money and damn those authors who don’t write books that will sell by the millions (or at least the thousands and earn a hefty profit). The new climate is anything but new. It’s the way things have been for far too long. It may be that small and specialty presses will once again (as in the eighties) have to step in to save exceptional authors who don’t sell enough for the big boys.

  73. Andrea Marie Norwood

    I for one certainly agree that you are wrong, and you never give up on “good thing” you are building into an empire, because you will have cheated yourself out of what could someday have been create.

  74. “No, not the paid reviews by registered Amazon reviewers working on Fiverr,…” So cynical, so funny, so sadly true.

    You sales are down — my commissions for sales like yours are down too. The freedom offer by the net is being sucked away by large corporate entities — the barrier to entry are back up sports fans!

    1. Kevin O. McLaughlin

      Troy, what data are you seeing that support those suppositions?

      Right now, the average price of indie books on bestseller lists is climbing, so indies are making more money on sales.
      The market percentage held by indies has remained almost entirely unchanged all year – at least 35% overall for ebooks in the USA, and roughly 45-50% of fiction ebooks.

      YOUR sales might be going down. Mine did, actually, too (because I failed to keep up a 90-day release schedule, largely). But I know scores of writers who have seen sales climb every month all year, even during the rough election months. That’s all anecdotal evidence. Some writers see sales climb, other see sales fall. Overall, indie market share *hasn’t budged*, and indie average prices *have climbed*, so overall, indie writers are grossing a total that is *significantly* higher than it was this time last year.

      There are no barriers to entry.

      There are barriers to success – finding readers, getting fans, building a customer base, writing and releasing enough product to keep people interested, those are all barriers to reaching a high level of success – but there are no barriers to entry.

      And *everybody* has those same barriers to success, regardless how they are published.

      1. I agree with you Kevin. Except for one missing factor. Amazon algorithms are the mysterious factor that Indies can’t beat. No matter how hard an author builds a base, changes in Amazon’s algorithms can mean a feast for a while, and then a famine. I’ve seen this happen over and over again. This is why I believe it is imperative for self published authors to get away from their Amazon addiction and publish on multiple platforms and have their books available on as many retailers as possible.

        1. Kevin O. McLaughlin

          But the good news, Derek are these two bits:

          1) Indies have, so far, been discovering those algorithm changes – and precisely how they impact sales – before the big publishers do. Right now, there are big publishers scanning indie forums to keep an eye out for the data indie writers are compiling, because it’s some of the best ebook industry analysis available today. WE get that info first. ;)

          2) Indies are in a better position to make changes based on those algorithm changes. Amazon changes something, we ADAPT. We shift prices, or change marketing strategies. We can turn on a dime! We are nimble, agile, fast. We are the sleek dolphins gliding alongside the oil tankers of the big publishers. ;) They can’t change their tens of thousands of books overnight to take advantage of changes. We can! So every time Amazon changes things up, it is more likely to benefit indies than major publishers. ;)

    2. Troy, there are clearly two types of writers who publish on Amazon. On the one hand you have authors who writer from a literary angle, and those who write from a demographic angle. With phrases like ” 90-day release schedule” it would seem that Kevin falls into the latter category. These authors write to the demographics. In other words they see who is buying the most books in what category and then tailor their book to the market. The other type of author writes in the genre of their choice and are not influenced by demographics. One writes where their creativity leads them, the other whores after sales and will write anything that is selling at the moment regardless of subject matter. So take what those who write to the market say with a grain of salt. These authors grind out whatever is popular at the moment and will show higher sales because they are specifically targeting the groups and subjects that sell the most books.

      1. Kevin O. McLaughlin

        I think that’s a gross oversimplification, Rick. There are many, many types of writers out there. ;) And there is room for all sorts of storytellers.

        When I said “90 day release schedule”, I was referring back to an earlier comment I made. You don’t need to release a new novel every 90 days. Even a short story or novella will keep your name visible in those “new” categories where many readers browse for books. They buy the novella, like it, look for your other stuff, buy some of that, too…

        It’s a fact of life that most writers don’t make a living from their first ten or so books. It takes *time* to build an audience. It takes book after book. That’s the way the profession has pretty much always worked; it was that way under old traditional publishing for everyone except the lottery-winning breakout bestseller, and it remains that way in indie publishing.

        Whether you write one book a year or five, it’s going to take a good stack of books before you make your living at the game. Oh – and if you stop writing, your name will fade, sales will slump, and your income will fall.

        PS: As for me? I don’t write that fast. I have a full time job, and kids, and life takes its toll. Most full time writers I know produce many hundreds of thousands of words of fiction per year, though. “Writing fast” is really just about spending more time at the profession. If I write five hours per week, and you write fifty hours per week, you’re probably going to produce new books in about 1/10th the time I will. It’s just simple math.

        Most writers who want a full time living from writing books will need to put in full time hours to achieve their goal, and then continue working full time hours to maintain it.

        Most writers who want their books to sell will need to produce books which in every way match the quality level of the big NYC houses. That is the bar you must reach or exceed, unless you’re very lucky.

        Most writers who want to build a career quickly, instead of over 5-10 years, will have to produce multiple novels per year. The more GOOD books (or short stories, or novellas) you write per year, the faster your career will tend to progress.

        Most writers who want to make a living from their books will not be able to do so in the 99 cent price level. The average bestselling indie book is now around $3.50, and that number continues to climb.

        The day when you could write a book, toss it up without editing or proofing with a bad cover at 99 cents and make good money are over. Mainstream readers have moved into ebooks, and they want quality books. They’re also willing to pay quality prices for them, so many indies are doing QUITE well at $3.99-6.99 for full length novels. Amazon has also gotten tired of the 99 cent books, since they don’t make much money from them; they have changed their algorithms to favor pricing which brings them more money. Incidentally, those prices also bring the WRITER more money, so most experienced writers took one look at this data (last May!) and raised their prices on long form works (lots of folks still sell shorts for 99 cents, which is fine, but some writers are even selling shorts for $2.99 now – and are selling copies).

        If you want to succeed, you will (probably, barring a stroke of fortune) have to produce highly professional books, with excellent content; you will need to price them as professional works; you will need to continue producing more of the same to keep readers interested; and you will have to KEEP doing so for as long as you want to retain income on the older works, because otherwise all those writers still writing will rise above your work, and yours will vanish.

        In general, writers who work the hardest and produce the best stuff will sell best and earn the most. I don’t really have an issue with that. ;)

  75. Well put Troy. Yes, the barriers are slowly being put back up and the lock keepers are back in town. As for Fiverr and paid Amazon reviews? Well, let nothing like hypocracy get in the way of free enterprise huh? As my reviews by fellow authors may be banned and deleted, I guess I should consider spending five bucks to make my reviews safe.

  76. Michelle Booth

    Brilliant article. Not many things literally make me ‘laugh out loud’ but this did! I didn’t know the big publishers were starting to offer self-publishing services – looks like they are finally waking up to what’s going on. My decision to self-publish, despite a publisher’s interest, was purely financial, going on the experience of authors who had moved from traditional to self-publishing. I’m glad I did and I like having control. I also like fighting the big guys!

    1. You say your choice to self-publish was purely financial. Well if a real publisher was interested they would be offering a check. Sounds to me like a vanity press was trying to get you to pay them. That’s not a real publisher, that’s a parasite who preys on the vanity of would-be writers to bleed them of cash and get them nowhere in a writing career, except poorer.

      1. Kevin O. McLaughlin

        Or the check offered was so piddling that she decided she’d almost certainly make more money going indie.

        That’s why most professional writers make the switch, Rick. ;)

  77. I would have thought sheer profits would keep Amazon fighting for the self-publisher – we do all the work, we market our books as hectically as we can, and they rake in a chunk on every sale, that’s like a licence to print money. I can well imagine the conventional publishers getting twitchy but surely it is in their interests to haul on board the gravy train instead – get their readers panning the waters to find reasonable books, then offering marketing help to the chosen ones.

    Maybe we should be doing that ourselves – like United Artists in early Hollywood, combining forces and hammering out our own futures.

    1. I think there’s a deeper story developing Elizabeth, and it all has to do with KDP Select and Amazon Prime. Now, my assumptions are made purely on anecdotal evidence and what I hear from other self published authors, but here’s my spin on it.

      Amazon’s algorithms are favouring those authors who are enrolled in KDP Select and have granted exclusivity to Amazon, which is quite logical as Amazon derive income from both sales, and borrows to Prime members. But by granting exclusivity, authors have signed away their independence. So, are they Indie authors anymore?

      The other clear sign that Amazon are favouring Select authors is in the royalty rates that are offered. As I have withdrawn from KDPS now, my royalty rate has dropped from 70% to 35% in a number of Kindle Stores.

      As have my sales I might add. Since removing all of my ebooks from KDPS in October last year, but I still have them on KDP of course, my sales have dropped 50%. I haven’t changed my promotion or marketing in any way, so I’m assuming it’s the effect of not being cross promoted by Amazon’s algorithms as much as when I was in KDPS.

      But you know what? I prefer to be a self published Indie author. And especially the Indie bit.

      1. Kevin McLaughlin

        I do not think there is evidence that Amazon is favorign Select books with their algorithms. If anything, the evidence suggests that Amazon USED to favor Select books much more highly, but has been steadily degrading that favoritism over the course of 2012, and now there is little benefit to be found in using the Select program.

        I sympathize with your reduced sales; many writers have seen sales go down. Others have seen sales go up. Many factors are involved in sales changes. ALL book sales go down around a major election, for example. Ebook sales tend to drop in December because they make bad gifts, and most people are holding off on personal purchases because of the December holidays. Your release tempo also matters a lot: how often you release new, good titles matters enormously, and if you’re not on a quarterly release schedule, consider moving to one. Keeping something in the “released in the last 90 days” list helps sales.

        I don’t think it’s something we can blame on Amazon, though. I think it’s something we need to take ownership of and solve for ourselves.

        1. I have to disagree Kevin.

          Amazon must favour KDPS titles now, because as you said, most of the original benefits of enrolling in KDPS have been gradually whittled away to near zero. For example, a free book give away, which counted as a sale when KDPS first started, is now dow to 5% of sale value. As for Prime borrows, why would anyone borrow a book priced under $4.99? Which most KDPS authors are under. And while I agree that sales fluctuate, mine fluctuated south in a hurry the day after I took all of my books out of KDPS. And this was after 2 years of steady sales. I just don’t go with coincidence on this one.

          The other point is that real authors don’t work on a 90 day release schedules. That is not writing, that is just ridiculous. It’s a recipe for releasing rubbish, which is what is damaging not only the Kindle, but also the ebook platform in general.

          1. Kevin O. McLaughlin

            You say they “must” favor Select books. But where is the evidence that they ARE doing so? Frankly, so long as some folks are willing to continue enrolling their books, I don’t think they “must” do anything. I wonder if they plan to continue the program through 2013, to be honest. Right now, it looks like they are, but I’m seeing all benefits of being a part of it decline, across the board.

            I agree that the KLL borrows favor higher priced books. Also, the visibility algorithms all now favor higher priced books. The benefit of charging 99 cents is now in the toilet. It’s gotten so that I am pushing my short story length on new works into novelette range so I can charge $2.99 for them instead of 99 cents.

            Amazon isn’t interested in a bunch of 99 cent bestsellers, so they’re actively making it more difficult to reach bestseller status at 99 cents. If you are pricing under $2.99, your work is *significantly* less likely to make sales.

            As for the schedule, I beg to differ. ;) Most full time professional novelists produce 2-6 novels a year, every year, for as long as they want a career to last. That has ALWAYS been the case. And I’m not just talking about long form work, either; you might produce two novels and two short stories or novelettes. That’s still a quarterly release schedule.

            If you write 1000 words per hour, and spend as much time revising as you do writing (experienced pros will spend less time than that on revision, but most of us are not experienced pros), then writing and revising just two hours a day, five days a week, is 250,000 new words published per year. That’s 2-3 new books, or two books and a couple of novellas. For working VERY part time hours (ten hours a week!).

            Full time novelists produce at four to six times that rate (working 40-60 hours per week).

          2. There is never anything that resembles evidence when it comes to Amazon Kevin. We all know that. But I think you are arguing my point. that KDPS is worthless unless you are a new author seeking a little bit of exposure. And I mean a little, because that’s all it gives now.

            With regard to how many books an author can produce a year, I’d agree with two. Perhaps. A novel of 100,000 words takes an awfully long time to research, write, and even longer to edit, fine tune, proof, beta read and prepare for publication. I think you are talking shorts and novellas, which are a different story.

            But I think you nailed the point though when you mentioned ‘inexperienced’. Just banging out crap at 1,000 words per hour to feed the Kindle machine is not writing.

            I can sometimes spend an hour just researching for a single paragraph. Word count is not writing.

          3. I am assuming you mean beyond the obvious evidence that KDP select pays 70% royalties as opposed to 35% for regular KDP books. So in fact authors who do not give Amazon exclusive rights are penalized half of their royalties.

          4. Isn’t that bad enough Rick, and a sign that if you’re not in KDPS, you’re heavily penalised? No matter the algorithm games, having your royalty rate cut by half tells to me that Amazon wants you exclusive, or you suffer the consequences. I’d rather go elsewhere. I don’t react well to thuggery.

          5. It is indeed bad enough, Derek, but there are also other ways Amazon penalizes author as with the algorithms.

          6. Having read your latest blog post Rick, I wondered if you could have included Amazon in your list of what’s wrong with the US. Quite honestly, Amazon is a thug. I probably should add Apple, Google and Microsoft to them too. But maybe that is how the US works now. By whatever means?

          7. Kevin McLaughlin

            Interesting, Rick. My non-Select books still get 70% royalties. I admit to being disturbed that only Select books get 70% in India, but I haven’t seen any changes to the regular royalty rates in other nations, have you?

          8. I’d go check your own KDP book price details page Kevin. The new Kindle Stores Amazon have added recently only pay 35% for non KDPS enrolment. The only exception being Canada.

      2. Interesting point.

        Want some more anecdotal evidence?

        I have TEN titles on Amazon now, NONE of which are in KDP Select. I removed them back in September, 2012.

        As a side project and learning experience, I helped my daughter produce and upload a short story to KDP, one that is very similar to the THREE children’s stories I have out.

        Her title has remained enrolled in KDP Select.

        This month to date I have exactly ZERO sales on the KDP platform, although I do have sales on BN, Lulu, ACX, and Createspace.

        The short story?

        With her ONE title, my daughter has a higher “author rank” on Amazon . . .

        than I do . . . with TEN.

        So yes, I DO believe that with Amazon and KDP Select, you either play ball . . . or you are OFF the team.


        1. Kevin O. McLaughlin

          More anecdotal evidence: I disenrolled from Select in June. Saw zero hit to sales. Sales still progress at roughly the same slow pace they had been. No marketing, no Select, still make sales.

          It’s all anecdotal. Which is…worthless.

          Want non-anecdotal evidence?
          Of the top 20 bestselling ebooks on Amazon, 30% (6) are self published. Of those, one is in Select.
          Of the top 100 bestselling ebooks on Amazon, 28% (28) are self published (down a bit today, due in part to the big boost in sales of old Reacher titles and a huge sale on trad pub nonfiction Amazon did yesterday, with over 2000 ebooks over 80% off). Of those, 10 are in Select.

          Select is obviously still helping at least some writers in sales of their work. But I do not think the actual evidence supports the idea that those without Select are automatically in trouble, sales-wise. Look elsewhere for the problems.

          1. Unfortunately Kevin, Amazon are so famously secretive that anecdotal evidence is all anyone has to work with. Amazon don’t even give information to governments unless threatened with a gun at the head, and even then they don’t tell all. So the only way to gain any insight into what’s happening is to follow the Kindle Boards (which I detest), pay attention to what other KDP and KDPS authors are saying and look at what happens to your own books. Amazon sure as hell aren’t going to tell anyone.

            As everything to do with Amazon and Kindle, sales and promotion is driven by mysterious algorithms, I would have to say that no one other than Amazon knows if titles are penalised after being withdrawn from KDPS. My own experience says a definite yes, as has been the experience of many others. But can I prove it? No, of course not. I just look at my steady sales of hundreds of copies for month upon month until the day I withdrew 15 books from KDPS, when somehow sales dropped to exactly zero overnight, and I drew my own conclusion. Call it simple logic, coincidental, anecdotal or worthless, but it is what happened.

  78. James Dallas Williams

    Hey, you know what’s even bigger than Amazon and the Kindle?… Apple and the iPad. I go through Smashwords to seel to Apple, and I get 60% list price (compared to 35% from Amazon- I refuse to give them excluvisity). All the iPads, iPods, and iPhones in the world vastly outnumber Kindles.

    Consider that above and answer this question for yourself…. Who needs Amazon? I don’t. Do you? Really?

    1. James, I have had 4 books published on smashwords for 8 months and sold 2 books. The same books on Amazon have sold over 200 in the same time period. I made $6.20 on smashwords and several hundred on Amazon. Apple has proprietary software for publishing directly to iBooks that require you own a Mac but they have no problem trying to sell their products on my PC. Although Amazon is out of control and treats Indie writer/publishers like shit, it is still the best place to sell book.

    2. Kevin O. McLaughlin

      According to the data on one poll, 75% of the users who read ebooks on Apple devices buy their ebooks from Amazon.

      The Apple market share on ebooks is single digit. It’s behind Kobo and B&N, and a WAY smaller market than Amazon. Mostly because their store is badly deficient compared to all their major competitors…

  79. I’ve had my head stuck in the revision machine lately, coming up for air to see – this, is very disheartening. Unfortunately, I’m already too far in to stop, research and reassess (I’ve got my deadline to meet, come hells or high water I shall meet it) but after that I’ll have to look more deeply into this.

    Who know, maybe this will be the first time I’m actually Happy that my sales numbers have always been small.

  80. Amazon is definitely up to something to destroy independent authors. Deleting allegedly (underline allegedly) fraudulent positive reviews, allowing clealrly fraudulent negative reviews to remain, removing tags, and changing the algorithims to favor Big Six-published e-books are all contributing to kill indie sales. And it’s working. Do a search and see how many authors are saying exactly the same thing: starting in October 2012 sales have plummeted after months and months of consistently strong sales.

    I hope Amazon will do the honest thng and change their policies, restore deleted reviews, etc. There’s room for everyone in this ball game.

    1. William I would have to disagree with you as far as Amazon trying to destroy Indies. I see it as they wish to control the ebook market extending as far as the review process and choosing which indie succeeds. They are definitely trying to find a model that works for them. the problem is that people are not going to let them have that much control. Indie publishing has been such a boom because it throws out the controlling publisher who wants complete control of our intellectual property. We won’t be playing “Meet the new boos, same as the old boss” as the Who so aptly put it.

  81. Hello,
    I hope that what you are saying is not true. That would be terrible if Amazon was that ruthless. But, I will keep my eyes open.

  82. Despite everything, I’ve yet to experience anything negative in the form of reviews being withdrawn, for instance. :)

    1. Jack, all one of the Amazon trolls have to do is report one of you reviews as paid or made by a friend and it will be gone. Amazon will pull reviews in a flash without validating any allegations. Yet on the other hand will refuse to remove reviews that are personal attacks made by trolls who admit they didn’t buy or read the book. I have been attack repeatedly because of my essay, “Stephen King Don’t Know Shit” in response to his essay “Guns”. If you want to see some of the worst reviews ever go and read them. I have zero tolerance for trolls so I call them out.

      I have to say that the essay is selling very well regardless of a 2.0 rating because of the personal attack reviews. But clearly things are completely out of hand at Amazon. Sadly Jack I would have to say it’s not a matter of if Amazon pulls one or all of your 5-star reviews but when.

  83. An interesting article!

    Any period of Independent growth in book sales was going to face cartel-like behaviour from large-scale publishers as by the time you are their size it becomes a matter of ecosystem.

    As a personal writer and author I’m torn between the comfort of exploitation and the rugged frontier of garnering more of the lion’s share of my work. I know, I had to re-read that last sentence a few times myself. But the truth of the matter is that as a writer and author I would like to spend as much time as possible being creative rather than taking on the role of self-promotion.

    At the end of the day I, and sadly we collectively, lack the power to stand against the whims of large scale corporate book culture. How we as individual authors negotiate the landscape is each of our own choices to make and gives us what little power we may have. So I don’t challenge anyone’s individual choice as to their own stance on the subject.

  84. Nikki Barnabee/@GargoylePhan

    It’s not Amazon. It’s all ultra-rich people/corporations/politicians, you name it. They’re not pretending anymore – they want every go*ddamn dollar in the world and they want it right now. They don’t care how it affects the economy, or individuals, or specific industries. They’re as addicted to money & power as drug addicts are to heroin. They only respond to overwhelming public anger. Maybe a hash tag of #DontBuyAmazonTradPubbedBooks, followed by people actually NOT buying them?

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